New York Appellate Court Upholds 25-Year Sentence, Rejects Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim

There are a wide variety of issues that can be raised on appeal following a criminal charge and criminal sentencing. One of the issues that can be raised is ineffective assistance of counsel. In this type of appeal, which generally is raised not by an appeal but by a motion to vacate a conviction under CPL 440.10, the defendant is arguing that his or her attorney failed to render competent legal counsel and that this failure had a dispositive outcome in his or her case. As seasoned New York criminal lawyers, we understand how critical it is to provide clients with responsive, dedicated, and knowledgeable legal counsel.

A recent appellate opinion discusses when a conviction can be overturned for ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant was accused of sexual abuse of a minor. At trial, the victim testified regarding the alleged abuse, stating that the abuse occurred for many years and that she had informed a number of individuals, including two officers, regarding the incidences. Following the victim’s testimony, the defendant’s counsel did not seek a limiting instruction from the court requesting that the minor’s statements regarding previous disclosures should not be considered in determining whether or not her testimony was true.

The prosecution called each of the individuals whom the victim had allegedly informed of the abuse. Defense counsel objected at each point at which the prosecution attempted to elicit an answer regarding what the victim disclosed to each witness. The prosecution then called a child sex abuse expert witness to testify regarding her examination of the victim. The expert witness testified that the victim had informed her of the abuse, and defense counsel objected. The doctor also testified that there were no physical signs of sexual abuse, but this conclusion did not foreclose the possibility that abuse occurred. In closing arguments, the prosecution stated that the victim should be believed based on her prior consistent statements and the testimony from each witness regarding the victim’s communications regarding the abuse. Ultimately, the defendant was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The Appellate Division affirmed the ruling, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that his lawyer’s alleged failure to object to the admission and use of prior consistent statements from the victim and alleged failure to offer expert testimony from an independent physician regarding a lack of sexual abuse constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant’s new lawyer included an affidavit with the appeal, stating that the defendant’s trial counsel did not consult with an expert witness because she did not think that the prosecution would have allowed the examining doctor to testify about what the victim had said. More specifically, the defendant challenged trial counsel’s failure to offer expert medical testimony stating that had the alleged violent abuse occurred, there would have been physical manifestations of the abuse.

Reviewing the totality of the trial counsel’s representation, the appellate court concluded that she did not render ineffective assistance of counsel. The court concluded that she made proper objections to the prosecution’s expert’s testimony and that her decision to not object to the prosecution’s statements during closing arguments regarding the victim’s prior consistent statements constituted a reasonable strategic choice in light of the limited nature of the witnesses’ testimony regarding what the victim told them.

If you are involved in a criminal investigation or facing a criminal charge, the seasoned and compassionate New York child abuse lawyers at Tilem & Associates are prepared to help you fight for your right to fair and equitable treatment. Our resourceful team of trial lawyers has substantial experience dealing with the authorities and feels confident in the courtroom. We can ensure that you understand your rights and options at each phase of the litigation and that you are involved in your defense. To set up a free consultation, call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online.

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