Friday, July 08, 2005

Should the 'new' standards for IAC in Rompilla and Wiggins also apply in the non-captial context?

Yes. There is no logical reason to distinguish between the standards for counsel enunicated in Rompilla v. Beard and Wiggins v. Smith.

Rompilla, you will remember is the very recent case which held an attorney in a capital case per se ineffective for failing to discover and review aggravating evidence that was in Court files which the prosecution had indicated that it intended to use against the defendant.

The court rebuked the Rompilla defense attorney in the strongest terms possible. The Court stated it was "more than common sense" that defense counsel must review and obtain information that the state has and will use against the defendant. The Court explained that "It flouts prudence to deny that a defense lawyer should try to look at a file he knows the prosecution will cull for aggravating evidence, let alone when the file is sitting in the Court house open for the asking."

See full text of Rompilla decision below:

http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/20jun20051200/www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04pdf/04-5462.pdf

There is no logical or legal reason to distinguish between capital and non-capital cases for purposes of the Rompilla rule. Counsel should be held per se ineffective for failing to discover and review evidence in Court files that either exculpates or that the prosecution intends to use to aggravate the defendants' sentence. Counsel has to be held responsible for at least looking at court files.

Chip Venie is a private criminal defense attorney in San Diego, California. He is admitted to practice before state and federal courts in California, Washington, D.C., and Michigan. Mr. Venie graduated from The University of Virginia School of Law and clerked as a staff Attorney to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Venie has litigated over 700 trial level felony matters and over 150 appeals. Mr. Venie can be reached at (619) 235-8300, or chipesq@hotmail.com.

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