New York High Court Rejects Defendant’s Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim in Aggravated Harassment Claim

If you are involved in a criminal matter, it is critical for your lawyer to provide you with diligent, experienced, and knowledgeable legal counsel. Although many lawyers take their duty seriously, some lawyers fail to provide their clients with appropriate representation. As a recognition of the impact that this can have on an individual’s rights, a defendant can appeal any judgment against him or her based on ineffective assistance of counsel. At Tilem & Associates, we pride ourselves on providing seasoned and compassionate legal counsel to parties involved in matters of New York criminal law, including individuals who are considering appealing their conviction based on prior representation.

A recent court opinion demonstrates how an ineffective assistance of counsel claim works. In the appeal, the prosecution claimed that the lower court made a reversible error when it held that the defendant’s lawyer engaged in ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant was charged with aggravated harassment, stalking, and criminal contempt involving a situation between him and his landlord. The defendant was eventually tried before a jury. Because there were 14 counts charged against the defendant encompassing over 300 different types of conduct, the court made annotations next to each count listed on the verdict sheet with a date and description of the alleged criminal conduct.

After deliberations, the jury returned a verdict convicting the defendant on twelve counts and acquitting the jury on two counts. The defendant appealed, asserting that his attorney was ineffective in failing to object to the trial court’s annotations on the jury sheet. The appellate court agreed with the defendant and found that the annotations were highly inflammatory and extraneous information that provided undue support to the prosecution’s case. The appellate court reversed the convictions and the prosecution appealed.

On review, the court started by referring to a New York statute that allows a trial court to annotate jury verdict sheets that have two or more charges with certain information, including dates to help the jury distinguish the counts. The purpose of these annotations is to enhance the ability of the jury during deliberations. The statute also provides that the trial court judge can include additional annotations only after the consent of both parties. Next, the court stated that to establish ineffective assistance of counsel, the contesting party must prove that his or her attorney demonstrated the absence of a strategic or otherwise legitimate explanation for his or her allegedly deficient conduct

The higher court also reviewed the trial record in whole and concluded that the defendant’s lawyer had a sound legal purpose for allowing the annotations because they encouraged the jury to consider each count and the relevant evidence carefully. The high court also noted that the trial court provided a verbal instruction to the jury about the limited use of the annotations. As a result, it reversed the appellate court’s order and remitted the case for further proceedings.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a criminal investigation or is facing criminal charges, the seasoned New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates are prepared to assist you in defending and protecting your rights. We understand just how stressful and daunting this situation can be for you and your family. As a result, we will provide you with the compassionate and responsive guidance you need at each step of the legal process. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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