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November 21, 2013

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Standard

Case: Edward Thomas Kendrick, III v. State of Tennessee

Issues: Was trial counsel ineffective in failing to obtain expert testimony and adducing a statement from an officer? Under what standard are Ineffective Assistance claims reviewed?

Facts: Defendant was convicted of first degree murder. On post-conviction, he filed a petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for deficiencies offering a defense that the murder weapon fired accidentally, which was denied.

Appellate Decision: The intermediate court reversed and granted the post-conviction petition. The court held that trial counsel was deficient in failing to obtain expert testimony and in not adducing evidence from an officer that the rifle fired accidentally when he handled it, and further held that these deficiencies prejudiced the Defendant. The court also criticized the legal standard applied by the post-conviction court: the PC court applied a “clear and convincing” standard to prejudice, but the appellate court observed that prejudice must only be shown to be “reasonably likely,” and only facts must be established by clear and convincing evidence.

Review Granted: November 13, 2013.

Prediction: Ben thinks the supreme court is likely to affirm the grant of post-conviction relief, absent the addition of facts not contained in the intermediate court’s opinion.