Habeas Granted Based on Prosecutorial Misconduct and Ineffectiveness of Appellate Counsel
On September 4, 2013, in Williams v. Artus, Judge Gleeson of the EDNY granted habeas corpus based on prosecutorial misconduct and on ineffectiveness of appellate counsel for failing to raise ineffectiveness of trial counsel for trial counsel’s failure to object to the prosecutor’s misconduct.
In Williams, the defendant and his girlfriend, Rebecca Madigan, were involved in a high speed car chase; Williams was driving and Madigan was in the passenger seat. One of them fired a shot at the car they were chasing, causing the car to crash. One of the passengers in that car was killed. At trial, Madigan testified that Williams had fired the shot; Williams claimed Madigan had fired it. At trial, the prosecutor purposely elicited evidence from Madigan that Williams had told her he had killed before. The judge denied the motion for a mistrial and attempted to give a curative instruction that was ultimately confusing. The prosecutor returned to this in summation, erroneously stating that Madigan had testified Williams had told her he had “killed people before.” Defense counsel did not object.
Judge Gleeson granted the writ of habeas corpus based on the prosecutor’s misconduct and on the ineffectiveness of appellate counsel for failing to raise trial counsel’s failure to object to the summation comments. Interestingly, Judge Gleeson noted that this was a case that met the deferential standard for habeas set forth in the AEDPA: that the state court not only incorrectly rejected his claims but that there is “no possibility fair minded jurists could disagree that” the state court decision conflicts with Supreme Court case law.
The prosecutor committed clear misconduct in eliciting evidence of prior murders and, after objection was sustained, to return to that subject in summation. But equally important, Judge Gleeson made the very rare finding that there was no strategic reason for appellate counsel not to raise the issue of ineffectiveness of counsel on appeal. Habeas grants are rare to begin with; ineffectiveness of trial counsel claims rarely succeed; and claims of ineffectiveness of appellate counsel for failure to raise trial counsel’s ineffectiveness on appeal are extremely rare. Judge Gleeson’s opinion is a reminder that the habeas courts are still watching out for problems in state convictions.
- Williams v. Artus, No. 11-CV-5541 (JG), 2013 WL 4761120 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2013).
- Williams v. Artus, No. 11-CV-5541 (JG), 2013 BL 237268 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2013).
- Williams v. Artus, No. 11-CV-5541 (JG), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126240 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2013).
- William v. Artus, 11-CV-5541, NYLJ 1202618541720, at *1 (E.D.N.Y., Decided Sept. 4, 2013).