Cite as: 536 U. S. 856 (2002)
At issue in this case is whether, when an Arizona Superior Court denied respondent's successive petition for state post-conviction relief because respondent had failed to comply with Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(a)(3) (West 2000), the state court's ruling was independent of federal law. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit thought not. We granted certiorari and certified to the Arizona Supreme Court a question concerning the proper interpretation of Rule 32.2(a)(3). We have received a response and now reverse the Ninth Circuit's decision.
Respondent, Robert Douglas Smith, was convicted in Arizona in 1982 of first-degree murder, kidnaping, and sexual assault. He was sentenced to death on the murder count and to consecutive 21-year prison terms on the other counts. After a series of unsuccessful petitions for state postconviction relief, respondent filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U. S. C. §§ 2241 and 2254 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The petition alleged, among other things, that respondent's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated because his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance during the sentencing phase of his trial.
Respondent had previously brought this ineffective-assistance claim in a 1995 petition for state postconviction relief pursuant to Ariz. Rule Crim. Proc. 32. The Pima County Superior Court denied the claim, finding it waived under Rule 32.2(a)(3) because respondent had failed to raise it in two previous Rule 32 petitions. The state court rejected respondent's contention that his procedural default was excused because his appellate and Rule 32 attorneys suffered from a conflict of interest between their responsibility
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