Friday, July 29, 2011

6th Circuit: Doing Cocaine and Sleeping During Trial is Not Necessarily Ineffective Assistance

In Muniz v. Smith, the 6th Circuit today was dealing with a habeas corpus petition challenging a state conviction on ineffective assistance of counsel grounds. What was so ineffective? The defense attorney was charged with possession of cocaine approximately 3 weeks before becoming the defendant’s attorney. Also, a juror noticed that the defense attorney was sleeping during the cross examination of the defendant. The 6th Circuit denied the habeas petition.

How could this possibly be? Well, the court was not condoning the attorney’s cocaine use and sleeping during trial, rather the court held that the defendant could not show prejudice. Specifically, a witnessed testified that the defendant shot the victim in the face; the victim survived and testified that the defendant shot him in the face; a police officer testified that the victim told him the defendant shot him in the face while the victim was lying bleeding at the scene; and last but not least, the defendant’s own mother testified that the defendant called her and confessed to shooting the victim in the face. Because the evidence was overwhelming and “Muniz cannot establish that his trial counsel was asleep for a substantial portion of his trial,” counsel’s performance was not ineffective.

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