1 of 4: Common Arguments in a Post-Conviction Argument – Ineffective Counsel

Ineffective counsel can transpire in a multitude of ways. In sum, if an attorney fails to zealously advocate and thoroughly prepare for a client’s case, there is a potential for an ineffective counsel argument. Did the attorney fail to object to the state’s damaging evidence? Did the attorney fail to request an obvious jury instruction? Did the attorney fail to investigate an alibi and thus fail to present evidence of the defendant’s alibi in trial? All of these are potential flaws in the attorney’s zealous advocacy and preparation in the defendant’s case.

A common argument for ineffective counsel typically centers around guilty pleas. The key to an enforceable plea is that the plea was voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently entered. Tennessee courts have established that often a defendant relies on their attorney to make the overall choice for them on whether to enter a guilty plea or not. This is why it is important that defendants truly understand their plea and that the plea is thoroughly and comprehensively explained to them by their attorney. If an attorney fails to properly explain the plea deal, an argument can be made for ineffective counsel as counsel did not ensure the defendant entered the plea voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. Further, you may have an ineffective counsel claim if there is a miscalculation of sentencing. If an attorney miscalculates what a defendant’s sentence may be and bases their plea deal advice off that miscalculation, a court will take this into consideration as counsel being ineffective.

So, how do you support an ineffective counsel claim? In 1984, the United States Supreme Court established the standard needed to support an ineffective counsel allegation in Strickland v. Washington. The court held that the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to effective counsel. Accordingly, when deciding whether a claim of ineffective counsel will prevail, a court must decide whether the counsel’s conduct so undermined the adversarial process of justice that the trial cannot have reliably produced a “just” result.

In 2022, Tennessee’s own Supreme Court established similar precedent in state case law through its decision in Phillips v. State of Tennessee. The Court found that not only does a defendant have to prove counsel was ineffective, the defendant must also show that if not for the ineffective counsel, there would have been a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different.

If you believe you have an ineffective counsel claim, contact us today!