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7th Circuit affirms denial of habeas corpus petition

January 31, 2012

A man who stabbed his wife repeatedly, leaving her with a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen, was unable to prove that he received ineffective counsel at trial, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held.

In Dale J. Atkins v. Michael Zenk, No. 11-1891, a jury convicted Dale Atkins of attempted murder, criminal confinement, domestic battery and invasion of privacy and sentenced him to 51 years in prison. After filing an unsuccessful petition for post-conviction relief, he filed a habeas corpus petition. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, denied that petition, but granted a certificate of appealability.

At trial, Atkins claimed he was not present in his wife’s home at the time she was stabbed. But on the eve of trial, he admitted to his lawyer, Todd Ess, that he had stabbed his wife, but that it was an accident and he had not intended to kill her. In the wake of this revelation, Ess asked Atkins if he wanted to proceed using an accident defense or a misidentification defense, but Atkins was uncooperative and said he did not wish to testify or talk about his relationship at trial.

Atkins claimed that insufficient evidence exists to support his conviction for attempted murder, but in the 7th Circuit opinion, the court wrote: “Atkins’ entire argument boils down to the fact that Yvonne’s stab wounds were not particularly deep. Therefore, a jury could have reasoned that Atkins lacked the requisite intent to kill.” But the court said that argument is flawed, particularly because “ten stab wounds – one that was less than one inch from her heart and another that cut her spleen – are damning evidence supporting an intent to kill.”

The 7th Circuit therefore affirmed the District Court in denying Atkins’ habeas corpus petition.

 

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