IAC Claims

The Federal Docket

Roderick Lewis v. Dushan Zatecky (7th Cir. April 2021)

In a 2-1 opinion, the Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of Roderick Lewis’s 2254 motion and remanded his case for re-sentencing. The Court held that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer at sentencing only said he was “going to defer to Mr. Lewis if he has any comments. I don’t have anything to add.” The Court further held that this was one of those rare instances where prejudice is presumed pursuant to SCOTUS’s decision in U.S. v. Cronic, since trial counsel’s silence at sentencing “went beyond a failure to conduct adversarial testing; it was an announcement of abandonment.”

United States v. Precias Freeman (4th Cir. March 2021)

The Fourth Circuit vacated a drug defendant’s sentence for two reasons. First, it held that, despite there having been no hearing where sentencing counsel testified, the record was sufficient to establish that defendant received ineffective assistance when her counsel waived meritorious objections to the guidelines that would have resulted in a lower range and where he put his efforts into getting her in a drug program despite not knowing the program’s requirements for admission. The Court also held that the defendant’s 17-year sentence was substantively unreasonable where the sentencing court failed to consider her severe opioid addiction and that her sentence was significantly longer than those of similarly-situated defendants across the country.

Jeffery Bridges v. United States (March 7th Cir. 2021)

The Seventh Circuit remanded a defendant’s 2255 motion for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the defendant had made a sufficient showing that he may have received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his lawyer’s failure to argue that his Hobbs Act robbery was not a crime of violence under the career offender provision of the sentencing guidelines. While the Seventh Circuit had not yet decided whether Hobbs Act robbery was a crime of violence at the time of the defendant’s sentencing, other circuits had, the categorical approach under the Guidelines was well-known, and this was enough to warrant at least a hearing to determine whether the defendant’s counsel failed to reasonably investigate the issue before the defendant’s sentencing.

United States v. Gregory Olson (9th Cir. February 2021)

While denying a defendant’s appeal from a 2255 motion, the Ninth Circuit suggested the Sixth Amendment right to counsel can apply in certain cases before there has been an indictment filed. Here, the Court rejected claims by a defendant who alleged his lawyer had not communicated a pre-indictment offer to him after he received a target letter.

United States v. Jason Harriman (8th Cir. August 2020)

The Eighth Circuit upheld a defendant’s conviction of murder-for-hire, denying entrapment as an affirmative defense under the de novo standard of review because the defendant did not produce sufficient evidence of inducement. The Court also affirmed the district court’s denial of motions for new counsel and new trial, holding the proper standard of review is for abuse of discretion.

Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

In a per curiam opinion, a majority on the Supreme Court vacated a defendant’s death sentence and held that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective based on his failure to perform mitigation investigation, putting up mitigating evidence that backfired by bolstering the state’s case, failing to investigate the state’s aggravating evidence, and failing to present significant mitigating evidence that he could have discovered.

United States v. Sharon Gandy et al. (6th Cir. June 2019)

The Court held there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendants of identify theft and mail fraud. The Court also rejected the argument that the defendants received ineffective assistance from conflicted counsel after the defendants filed bar complaints against them. The Court held that the defendants failed to show that their attorneys had a conflict of interest, let alone were ineffective, since “the state-bar grievances did not create conflicting obligations” and thus did not put the attorneys in a position to have to choose one interest over another.

United States v. Sergio Murillo (4th Cir. June 2019)

The Court vacated the defendant’s sentence and conviction after finding that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel advised him that his plea would only trigger his possible deportation, where deportation was actually mandatory and the evidence reflected that the defendant would not have pleaded guilty if he knew deportation was mandatory. The Court added that the boilerplate language int he plea agreement indicating that deportation was mandatory was not dispositive.

United States v. Alicia Norman

United States v. Alicia Norman, et al, No. 17-3070 (D.C.C. June 11, 2019) ISSUES: Criminal Procedure, Pleas, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Sentencing Guidelines On an appeal from a bribery and marijuana distribution case, the Court rejected the defendants’ numerous allegations of error except to the extent it held that one of the defendant’s had raised …

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Michael Wade Nance v. Warden (11th Cir. April 2019)

Reviewing a petitioner’s § 2254 motion, the Court held that the state court’s rejection of petitioner’s ineffective claim was objectively reasonable since trial counsel’s decision to refrain from presenting certain mitigation evidence at death penalty sentencing was a strategic decision. The Court also held that the state court did not go against clearly established federal law in holding that the trial court did not err in requiring defendant to wear a stun belt under his clothes because the Supreme Court has only established that requiring visible restraints is prejudicial.

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