from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
STEWART, Chief Judge, and CLEMENT and SOUTHWICK, Circuit
BROWN CLEMENT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
habeas case is about a woman who, awaking in the night to an
alleged voice telling her to kill her children, grabbed
several kitchen knives and repeatedly stabbed her young
children, leaving them to bleed to death. Upon being charged
with first degree murder, she pled not guilty by reason of
insanity. The jury found her guilty but did not sentence her
to death. After exhausting all forms of direct or collateral
relief in Louisiana, Amy Hebert filed a petition for habeas
relief in federal court. The district court denied relief but
granted a certificate of appealability. Hebert raises two
issues before us: (1) defense counsel provided ineffective
assistance by failing to object to the State's allegedly
discriminatory peremptory strikes; and (2) a rational jury
could not have found that Hebert was sane at the time of the
killings. We affirm.
Hebert had two children, a nine-year old girl named Camille
and a seven-year old boy named Braxton. In 2005, Hebert and
her husband, Chad, separated. In 2006, they divorced after
she learned about Chad's affair with a woman from work,
Kimberly. Over the next year, Chad's relationship with
Kimberly became more serious, and they started to plan a
wedding, which was set for 2008. The children also had been
developing a closer relationship with Kimberly, a fact that
Hebert observed and resented. Chad began building a new home,
where both children would have their own room.
late summer of 2007, Hebert stabbed both of her children to
death at their home in Matthews, Louisiana. Both children
suffered dozens of stabs wounds in the chest, back, and
scalp, and ultimately bled to death. After killing both
children, Hebert placed their bodies in her bed. She then
killed the family dog, made a pot of coffee, wrote two notes,
and attempted to take her own life. She slashed her wrists
until she exposed her tendons; punctured her lungs,
collapsing them; and inflicted cuts to her legs, skull, neck,
and eyelids. Then, Hebert lay down in her bed to die beside
former father-in-law discovered this grisly scene the next
morning, and he summoned the police. When the authorities
arrived and entered the master bedroom, Hebert lifted a large
knife and yelled, "Get the f--- out." The police
subdued her with a taser. The authorities' attempts to
resuscitate the children were unsuccessful. Hebert was taken
to the hospital.
police discovered the two notes that Hebert had written. The
first note was addressed to Chad. It stated:
You wanted your own life. You got it. I'll be damned if
you get the kids, too. Your ambition & greed for money
won out over your love for your family. The hell you put us
through & I do mean all of us because you don't know
what the kids used to go through because of course you
weren't here. This is no kind of life for them to live. I
sure hope you two lying alduttering [sic] home wrecking
whores can have more kids because you can't have these.
Actually I hope you can't because then you'll only
produce more lying homewrecking adultering [sic] whores like
yourselves. Maybe you can buy some with all of your money you
will make from this house & the life insurance benefits
you'll get from the kids.
second note, which was addressed to Hebert's former
You run from the very thing you support! Monica pairs up with
a married man, becomes a kept woman & your response is
maybe she is in love with him-so that makes it okay? How
stupid! Your sons have affairs bring these whores home &
you welcome them all in. I guess its okay for them to hurt
the family as long as it is not you. Well when you started
delivering my kids to that whore, Kimberly, that was the last
straw! To all my friends thanks for all the help &
support you tried to give me. I love you all, Sorry Daddy,
Celeste & Renee I love you all too.
her arrival at the hospital, Hebert received treatment for
her physical wounds along with mental treatment from Dr.
Alexandra Phillips, a psychiatrist. Initially, Hebert was
unresponsive. A few days after the children's deaths,
Hebert informed Dr. Phillips that she had been hearing
"the words of Satan for a long time." In response
to a question from Dr. Phillips, Hebert said that "Satan
was in the room and was laughing at her." Hebert then
proceeded to scream, and Dr. Phillips concluded that Hebert
was "completely psychotic" and prescribed
anti-psychotic medicine for her.
State of Louisiana charged Hebert with first-degree murder of
her children. Hebert pled not guilty by reason of insanity. A
trial was held in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.
jury venire comprised 200 people, 112 of whom were women.
Both parties received 12 peremptory strikes and two alternate
juror peremptory strikes. Before the final jury was selected,
23 women and 10 men were randomly selected to sit on the
jury. The court struck four men for cause or hardship, and
Hebert used four peremptory strikes on men, which left just
two men on the panel. The State used 11 peremptory strikes
and one alternate peremptory strike against women.
Hebert's counsel did not object. The final jury included
10 women and two men, together with three men and one woman
as alternate jurors.
jury heard testimony from six experts during the guilt phase
of the trial. The defense called four experts: Dr. Alexandra
Phillips, Dr. David Self, Dr. Glenn Ahava, and Dr. Phillip
Resnick. Dr. Phillips prescribed anti-psychotic medication
for Hebert after concluding that she was "completely
psychotic" when she claimed that she saw and heard Satan
in the hospital room. Dr. Resnick opined that Hebert was
when she killed her children because she was having auditory
hallucinations in which she heard the voice of Satan
commanding her to kill the children and then commit suicide
to keep the family together. The voice, according to Hebert,
then instructed her to write the notes left at the scene of
the crime. Dr. Ahava, an expert in forensic psychology,
testified that Hebert was psychotic and likely could not
distinguish right from wrong on the day of the offense based
on her history of mental health problems and the excessive
number of stabs wounds on the children. Dr. Self, an expert
in forensic psychiatry, diagnosed Hebert as suffering from
major depression with recurrent and severe psychosis. He
further concluded that Hebert must have been psychotic
because "only the most psychotic people attack their own
response, the State called two rebuttal experts: Dr. Rafael
Salcedo and Dr. George Seiden. Dr. Salcedo, an expert in
clinical and forensic psychology, conceded at trial that
Hebert suffered from a psychotic disorder but concluded that
Hebert was still able to distinguish right from wrong. In
reaching this conclusion, Dr. Salcedo relied on Hebert's
notes, which he opined revealed the logical mental process of
someone seeking revenge through a retribution killing. Dr.
Seiden, an expert in general and forensic psychiatry, opined
that Hebert was capable of telling right from wrong because
there was no evidence that Hebert exhibited psychosis before
killing her children. He also relied on the notes as evidence
of Hebert's mental state, and he opined that the line
"Sorry Daddy, Celeste & Renee" showed Hebert
understood the wrongfulness of her actions.
jury returned a verdict of guilty. The jury was unable to
reach a unanimous verdict on the death penalty, and the court
sentenced Hebert to life imprisonment. Hebert filed a direct
appeal to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals, which
affirmed her conviction and sentence. Hebert then
unsuccessfully pursued habeas relief in state court. In
response to a claim that its peremptory strikes discriminated
against women, the State provided gender-neutral reasons for
using its peremptory strikes. After exhausting all other
avenues of relief, Hebert filed a habeas corpus petition in
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Louisiana. The district court denied her petition for relief,
but it granted a COA on all issues raised. Hebert timely
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA") prohibits a federal court from granting
habeas relief unless the decision of the state court
"(1) . . . was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2)
. . . was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in the state court
proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state
court's decision is contrary to clearly established
precedent if the rule it applies "contradicts the
governing law set forth in the [Supreme Court's] cases,
" or if the state court confronts facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme
Court yet reaches a different result. Wooten v.
Thaler, 598 F.3d 215, 218 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Wallace v. Quarterman, 516 F.3d 351, 354 (5th Cir.
2008)). A state court commits an unreasonable application of
Supreme Court precedent if it identifies the correct legal
rule but unreasonably applies that rule to the facts.
Id. (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S.
362, 407 (2007)).
whether a state court's decision resulted from an
unreasonable legal or factual conclusion does not require
that there be an opinion from the state court explaining the
state court's reasoning." Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). A state court's
decision does not even "require awareness of [the
Supreme Court's] cases, so long as neither the reasoning
nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts
them." Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002).
appeal from the denial of habeas relief, we review legal
conclusions de novo and factual findings for clear error.
Perez v. Cain, 529 F.3d 588, 593 (5th Cir. 2008). We
presume the state court's factual findings are correct
unless rebutted by the petitioner with clear and convincing
evidence. Wooten, 598 F.3d at 218.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
argues that her counsel provided ineffective assistance
because he failed to object to the State's use of its
peremptory strikes against qualified female venire members in
a manner that she alleges was discriminatory. We apply the
legal standard articulated in Strickland v.
Washington when evaluating the effectiveness of
Hebert's trial counsel. 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under
Strickland, a petitioner must prove both deficient
performance and prejudice. 466 U.S. at 697. To prove
deficient performance, petitioner must show that her
counsel's performance "fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. For
prejudice, petitioner "must show that there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different." Id. at 694. The issue is
whether defense counsel's representation "amounted