Friday, August 10, 2007

Failure To Explore Defense = Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel

Here's an interesting and rare grant of habeas corpus relief from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (courtesy of Appellate Law & Practice). The defendant awoke to his intoxicated ex-wife holding a gun to his temple. He was able to get the weapon from her and attempted to call 911. He tried to turn the weapon over to the police at a nearby bar but was arrested with the weapon as a result of a call placed by the ex-wife. The defendant had a prior felony conviction and was charged in federal court with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

He pleaded guilty with his lawyer, at the plea, interfering with his attempt to explain the circumstances. The Fourth Circuit held that the attorney had failed to conduct appropriate legal research on a defense of duress/necessity/justification. This lapse satisfied the standards of ineffective assistance of counsel. The case was successfully argued by a law student at the Wake Forest University School of Law. (Mike Frisch)

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