Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel In Murder And Possession Of Firearms Trial In Walker v. McQuiggan

A recent Michigan case highlighted the need for an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer. In Walker v. McQuiggan a man was convicted of first-degree murder and firearms possession in the commission of a felony. Under Michigan law, penalties for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm may be enhanced – including both penalties for the weapons charges and the underlying crime as well. Here, Reginald Walker’s faced serious charges and potential consequences, but despite evidence of long-term mental illness, his defense counsel failed to investigate and put on an insanity defense.

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor of felony offense – your future will be affected – especially where Michigan’s most serious penalties apply. There are things you can do – including post conviction appeals – that can minimize the impact on your future. It is crucial to contact a dedicated Michigan post-conviction appeals attorney if you or a loved one has been wrongfully convicted or incarcerated. Working with an aggressive Michigan criminal appeals attorney is necessary to identify issues that may be used to help overturn a conviction and provide a second chance at achieving justice.

Here, Walker was accused of shooting a complete stranger and killing him. At trial his defense counsel had the opportunity to request a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether Walker was mentally ill. Even though the defendant had been found mentally ill in prior exams, Walker’s defense counsel decided not to have the exam because “he did not believe that a defense of insanity in this case would be successful.” Walker had also written counsel that he had a significant history of mental illness, that he heard voices and possibly even heard voices on the day of the shooting. Despite the long history of schizophrenic ailments, counsel did not present an insanity defense, instead focusing of self-defense and intoxication.

Walker was sentenced to life without parole and two years for felony firearm charges. Walker appealed the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision and the Supreme Court denied Walker’s leave to appeal. Then in 2006, Walker filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the appeal and dismissed this case. Walker persisted and filed a timely appeal. Courts review ineffective assistance of counsel claims to see whether errors that counsel make are so serious that “counsel” is not functioning as guaranteed by the Second Amendment and that these errors were so serious to deprive the defendant a fair trial.

The Sixth Circuit determined that not only had counsel not sufficiently investigated the insanity defense but also that the court of appeals had “unreasonable applied clearly established federal law and unreasonably determined facts.” Based on this determination, the Court granted Walker’s petition, noting Walker was not “required to show that he had a winning defense or that he was legally insane at the time of the crime. Instead, he must only show that he had a substantial defense.”

Post conviction work and criminal appeals require skill and knowledge of the various courts across Michigan. If you’re facing a conviction or sentence, speak to an experienced Michigan criminal appeals attorney who understands the issues and will fight for your freedom. For more information, contact the aggressive Michigan criminal appeals law firm of Grabel & Associates for a free consultation.