Monday, November 14, 2011

Illinois Appellate Court reverses conviction (based on a negotiated plea) because of ineffective assistance of counsel

Convicted defendants often argue ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal, but the argument is not successful most of the time.  Last September, however, the Illinois Appellate Court decide two cases in favor of defendants claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.  I will comment briefly on both of them in separate posts.  Here is the first one.

In this first case, the court set aside a negotiated plea, after finding that the defendant's attorney had rendered ineffective assistance.  In that case, the defendant argued he had agreed to the plea offer based on trial counsel's representation that there were no witnesses available to testify on defendant's behalf, when, in fact, there was one such witness.

The court explains that although to present a witness in a case is a discretionary decision for which usually does not support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, in this case the attorney's conduct was not deciding not to use a witness but failing to investigate if there were any witnesses.  The court added that whether defense counsel was ineffective for failure to investigate is generally determined by the value of the evidence that had been available but the attorney failed to find.

Using that standard, the court found that the defendant was able to make a case of ineffective assistance of counsel under the Strickland v. Washington standard (attorney error and prejudice).

The case is called People v Clark and it is available here.

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