Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Mandated New Trial—Difference Between Federal and State Ineffectiveness Criteria Explained
In determining the defendant was entitled to a new trial because of the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel, the Second Department explained the difference between the federal and state criteria for ineffective assistance. Supreme Court had vacated defendant’s murder conviction (ineffective assistance) but allowed the conviction for criminal possession of a weapon to stand. The Second Department explained that, even though there was evidence to support the criminal possession of a weapon charge, the state ineffective assistance criteria required a new trial on all counts:
A defendant is guaranteed the effective assistance of counsel under both the federal and state constitutions (see US Const, amend VI; NY Const, art I, § 6…). The state standard is considered “somewhat more favorable to defendants,” focusing on “the fairness of the process as a whole rather than its particular impact on the outcome of the case” …. “[T]he constitutional requirements [for the effective assistance of counsel] are met when the defense attorney provides meaningful representation” …. While prejudice to the defendant is a necessary factor under the federal standard, embodied in a “but for” test …, under the state standard, “a defendant’s showing of prejudice is a significant but not indispensable element in assessing meaningful representation” …. “To meet the New York standard, a defendant need not demonstrate that the outcome of the case would have been different but for counsel’s errors” … . Generally, harmless error analysis is inapplicable to an ineffective assistance of counsel claim arising from counsel’s performance at trial … .
Here, the litany of failures by defense counsel documented by the Supreme Court established that the defendant was denied “meaningful representation” by his trial attorney. Notwithstanding the fact that there was strong evidence that the defendant possessed a loaded firearm during the incident in question, the New York State constitutional standard for the effective assistance of counsel “is ultimately concerned with the fairness of the process as a whole rather than its particular impact on the outcome of the case” … . People v Canales, 2013 NY Slip Op 06376, 2nd Dept 10-2-13