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7th Circuit rejects ineffective trial assistance claim

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of a defendant’s motion to vacate his guilty plea, claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The judges found the record foreclosed any claim that the man’s attorney was constitutionally ineffective or that the man didn’t otherwise knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty.

Police received a tip that Andrew Koons had a stolen vehicle. Police went to his home, where the stolen car was parked, but Koons wasn’t home. A neighbor told police that Koons had participated in a firearms transaction with him. Police then went to Koons’ workplace, where Koons voluntarily offered to go home with the officers and retrieve the guns. He allowed the officers into his home to do so.

Koons was charged with being a felon in possession and at no point during his change-of-plea hearing or during his sentencing hearing did Koons dispute the evidence or testimony presented. After he was sentenced, Koons filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 to vacate his conviction and sentencing, claiming his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient because he failed to investigate the potential Fourth Amendment claim Koons first brought up in this petition.

It wasn’t until his petition to vacate his conviction that Koons alleged the police told him at his workplace that they had a warrant to search his home and he had to return home and let them in. Koons also argued that the officer brandished a weapon when Koons expressed unwillingness.

The District Court denied the motion, and the 7th Circuit affirmed in Andrew C. Koons v. United States of America, No. 09-3025. They found no evidence that his attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, as defined in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984).

Except for his petition, the evidence unequivocally supports the government’s version of the events that Koons voluntarily consented to the search and had no viable Fourth Amendment claim. Koons never informed the court that the officer allegedly showed a weapon to coerce him into returning home, or claimed to have a warrant, wrote Judge Joel Flaum.

In fact, Koons’ petition is the first time on record that he raises those claims. He never informed his attorney of the facts giving rise to the alleged Fourth Amendment violation. The judges found the trial counsel’s investigation, which included meeting with Koons 17 times and interviewing witnesses that the government intended to call, was adequate.

The judges also affirmed the District Court’s denial of Koons’ motion for an evidentiary hearing.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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