Monday, May 31, 2010

Nothing New in Ineffective Assistance Case

Sorry for the delay in posting.  There have been several published opinions about which I have yet to post, but I've been out of pocket for the last few days.  I'll do my best to catch up.

HERE's a case from the 1st District Court of Appeals (Houston) that was issued on May 20th.  In Gavin v. State, the court considered whether Appellant was provided ineffective assistance of counsel.  As in any ineffective assistance opinion, the Court discussed the Supreme Court standard as articulated in Strickland v. Washington.  I have to say, I'm not so sure why this opinion was designated for publication (Gavin, that is, not Strickland).  Most published opinions offer some new analysis on criminal law issues - not so in this case - old law and nothing really interesting about the facts.  Below is an excerpt from the Court's opinion - I wouldn't waste my time reading any more of this opinion.
     The standard of review for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel is set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and Bone v. State, 77 S.W.3d 828 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). To prevail, Gavin must first show that his counsel‘s performance was deficient.  Specifically, appellant must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his counsel‘s representation fell below the objective standard of professional norms.  Second, appellant must show that this deficient performance prejudiced his defense, meaning that Gavin must show a reasonable probability that, but for his counsel‘s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.  A reasonable probability is one sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.  Thus, the benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel‘s conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.  
     There is a strong presumption that counsel‘s conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, and the defendant must overcome the presumption that the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.  To overcome the presumption of reasonable professional assistance, any allegation of ineffectiveness must be firmly founded in the record, and the record must affirmatively demonstrate the alleged ineffectiveness.  When determining the validity of an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, judicial review must be highly deferential to trial counsel and avoid the deleterious effects of hindsight.  The record on direct appeal will rarely contain sufficient information to evaluate an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim.  Based on such a record, a finding that counsel was ineffective would normally require impermissible speculation by the appellate court.  When the record is silent as to trial counsel‘s strategy, we will not conclude that defense counsel‘s assistance was ineffective unless the challenged conduct was so outrageous that no competent attorney would have engaged in it.