The Third Department, reversing County Court, determined defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction, after a hearing, should have been granted on ineffective assistance grounds. Defense counsel was aware of three witnesses who called into question whether the eyewitness to the shooting was outside where she could have seen the shooting, or inside where she could not. In addition defense counsel was aware of an alibi witness. Defense counsel did not sufficiently investigate these witnesses:
… [T]he case against defendant centered, in part, upon the identification of him as the shooter by the eyewitness. The witnesses identified in the letter sent by the People would have cast further doubt on the eyewitness’ identification testimony, as well as whether she could have even seen the shooting. Yet, the record reflects that counsel made little efforts to reach out to these witnesses and minimal follow-up efforts.
Defendant also argues that he received ineffective assistance due to counsel’s failure to investigate an alibi witness. At the hearing, defendant’s uncle testified that defendant was with him in a house at the time of the shooting and that they were nowhere near the area where the shooting occurred. The uncle further stated that he was willing to testify at trial and left numerous voice messages for defendant’s counsel. Defendant’s counsel testified that she did not receive any voice messages from the uncle but recalled that the uncle would be an alibi witness. Other than stating in a conclusory manner that she was unable to locate the uncle, the record fails to show diligent attempts by counsel to reach him. The uncle’s testimony would have bolstered the defense by providing the jury with conflicting evidence as to defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the shooting. In our view, the failure to investigate this potential alibi defense and the witnesses who would have refuted the eyewitness’ location at the time of the shooting cannot be considered a reasonable trial strategy … . People v Lanier, 2021 NY Slip Op 01094, Third Dept 2-18-21