Supreme Court Finds Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel In Michigan v. Armstrong

The criminal law process can be challenging and in some instances, a conviction may be unavoidable. However, many times the criminal appeals process may be available to help reduce the impact of a conviction or even overturn a poor decision. For example a defendant may be convicted for a crime he or she didn’t commit, receive an unfair sentence, or believe that their lawyer did not do as good of a job as he or she should in defending the case. In these and many other situations, it is a good idea to seek out the help of a post-conviction services law firm and have a criminal defense appeals attorney review your matter to determine any issues that may provide the probability of overturning a conviction and grant a person another opportunity to achieve justice and secure his or her freedom.

A frequent complaint – and one that may lead to a new trial – is that of “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Ineffective assistance of counsel means that the lawyer who represented you did such a poor job representing a client that his or her “performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” and that but for the bad performance, there is a reasonably probable chance that the outcome would have been different.

According to the Michigan Supreme Court, the attorney’s actions in Michigan v. Armstrong provide an example of ineffective assistance of counsel.

In Armstrong, a 25-year-old male was charged with engaging in sex crimes with a 15-year-old girl. The 15-year-old and the defendant met three times over the course of several months, during which the sexual assaults occurred. Much of the defense was based on attacking the girl’s credibility. For example, the complainant denied speaking with the defendant after the last incident because she wanted “no further contact with the man who had so brutally raped her.” However, cell-phone records revealed hundreds of incoming calls from the girl to the defendant. When defense counsel attempted to introduce these records, the prosecution objected for lack of foundation. Defense counsel – who had only practice law for eight months at the time – made no additional efforts to have the records admitted.

During closing argument, the prosecution argued to disregard any evidence of cell phone records because they had not been properly admitted. The jury subsequently convicted the defendant of two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The Court of Appeals denied defendant’s motion for rehearing based on ineffective assistance of counsel, however the Michigan Supreme Court overturned this decision. The Court determined that defense counsel’s actions in not pursuing admission of the records fell below the standard of reasonableness because the records would have caught the complainant in a lie. The only reason defense counsel failed to pursue their admission was because he “became flustered when the prosecution objected for lack of foundation.” Further, because introduction of the records would have thoroughly “impeached” her testimony, it is likely the failure to introduce these records changed the outcome of the trial.

As a result, the Court determined that the case should be re-tried based on “ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Many times it may be possible to file an appeal. An experienced Michigan criminal appeals attorney can review your record and identify issues that may entitle you to further proceedings. A conviction will have an impact – it is important to take whatever steps necessary to protect your future and your freedom. For more information, contact the aggressive Michigan criminal defense firm of Grabel & Associates for an immediate free consultation.

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