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Man not prejudiced by attorney's assistance

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Even though a defendant's counsel was found to be ineffective based on his "television fantasy" trial strategy, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court denial of his petition for habeas corpus because he didn't show he was prejudiced by his attorney's performance.

In Cleveland C. Bynum v. Bruce Lemmon, No. 07-2634, Bynum contended his trial attorney, Charles Graddick, was ineffective for failing to put him on the stand at the hearing on his motion to suppress his post-arrest confessions to murdering five people. Bynum gave two separate statements to the police regarding the murders. The Indiana Court of Appeals and Lake County post-conviction court affirmed his convictions, finding Graddick's assistance not to be ineffective. The District Court did find Bynum's attorney's assistance to be ineffective, but ruled it didn't prejudice him.

Bynum claimed before trial he told Graddick the police threatened him when he asked for an attorney and that they would charge his fiancee with obstruction of justice, leaving their son in protective services. Because of those alleged threats, Bynum said he agreed to sign a Miranda rights waiver form and make his first of two statements.

Instead of having Bynum testify at the mid-trial suppression hearing, Graddick only questioned the officers, whose testimony contradicted what Bynum told Graddick. At an evidentiary hearing for post-conviction relief, Graddick testified he decided to move to suppress the confessions during trial because he thought there were holes in Bynum's testimony and he didn't want to give the state advanced notice of his trial strategy.

Using the first prong of the test under Strickland, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that Graddick provided ineffective assistance. Graddick's plan to get evidence of coercion from the police through the officers' testimony was considered by the District Court as not trial strategy but "television fantasy." That strategy failed and Bynum was left with no evidence that his two confessions to police were coerced. And, Graddick's reason for keeping Bynum off the stand because he couldn't withstand cross-examination was baseless, wrote Judge Ilana Rovner.

"The only way Bynum could have succeeded on his motion to suppress was to put forth evidence of coercion through his own testimony. And any prejudicial testimony Bynum gave at the suppression hearing would not have affected any other part of the proceedings," she wrote. "Graddick thus had no reasonable option but to put Bynum on the stand."

However, Bynum failed to prove he was prejudiced by Graddick's ineffectiveness. Judge Rovner wrote that the 7th Circuit judges could readily assume Bynum would have been acquitted had the two confessions been suppressed because the state was left with little evidence. The state courts ruled that it wasn't reasonably probable that had Bynum testified, he would have succeeded on his motion to suppress. That conclusion wasn't contrary to Indiana Supreme Court precedent or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented, wrote the judge.

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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