Kansas Supreme Court denies man’s appeal for a new trial
Under the U.S. Constitution, all criminal defendants are entitled to competent legal representation. Even for those who face a serious felony charge, such as a murder charge, their attorneys are responsible for mounting a solid criminal defense. But just because a criminal defendant is found guilty by a court of justice does not necessarily mean that his or her lawyer’s representation was ineffective.
A former church pastor and resident of Overland Park recently claimed his criminal attorney presented an inadequate defense in the man’s 2002 trial for murder. The defendant had been accused of asphyxiating his 9-year-old son by wrapping him in duct tape, thereby causing the child’s death. Based on the evidence at trial, the court found the man guilty and sentenced him accordingly.
During closing arguments in the trial, the man’s attorney conceded that his client was culpable for child abuse, but that he was not guilty of murder. The defendant alleged that this concession led to his conviction, and therefore he received ineffective counsel.
The Kansas Court of Appeals granted the defendant a hearing to address his allegations. But the Kansas Supreme Court recently overturned the appeals court’s decision.
The Supreme Court stated that in order to receive further consideration as to his attorney’s conduct, the man needed to show there was a “reasonable probability” that the trial’s outcome would have been different had the lawyer not made the concession. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the man had failed to do so.
In other words, in order to prevail on a claim of ineffective counsel, a defendant must demonstrate that had it not been for certain actions of their lawyer, there was a reasonable probability they would have won their case or it would have resulted in a mistrial. Conviction alone is not sufficient proof that a defense attorney was ineffective.