Thursday, September 13, 2012

Innocent Man Granted Habeas in Virginia

Maligie Conteh, a man wrongly convicted of robbery in 2009, has been vindicated with the ruling of the Honorable Randy I. Bellows of the Virginia Circuit Court.  On September 13, 2012, the Court ruled that the prosecution withheld material impeachment evidence in Mr. Conteh's trial.  This evidence, consisting in part of a the victim's recent conviction for possessing a fictitious social security card, constituted Brady material that Commonwealth of Virginia was obligated to disclose, but failed to do so.  The Court also considered newly discovered evidence persuading the judge that a reasonable doubt existed concerning Mr. Conteh's guilt.  Specifically, evidence was presented showing that Mr. Conteh was on Facebook immediately after the robbery took place, which was entirely consistent with his alibi.

Mr. Conteh, currently held for deportation to Sierra Leone, the country from which he fled as a young child to avoid being drafted as a child solider, has been cleared of the robbery charge for which he was wrongly convicted.  A team of attorneys from the law firm of McGuireWoods, led by Anand Ramana, argued on Mr. Conteh's behalf.

A news article related to Mr. Conteh's plight appeared in the Washington Post.  Stay tuned for the most up-to-date information.

UPDATE:  The Washington Post reported on the vacated conviction.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Special Update: W.D. Ky. Discusses the Poindexter Circuit Split

Hamilton v. United States, Nos. 3:11–CV–150, 3:09–CR–2, 2012 WL 246472 (W.D. Ky. Jan 26, 2012).

What happens when a petitioner claims ineffective assistance of council for his attorney not noting an appeal after an unequivocal instruction to do so and after submitting a guilty plea in which the petitioner waives his right to appeal? Is the attorney per se ineffective?

These questions have formed the basis for opinions which split the circuits.  The Fourth Circuit holds that an attorney still must file a notice of appeal.  United States v. Poindexter, 492 F.3d 263, 273 (4th Cir. 2007) ("[A]n attorney is required to file a notice of appeal when unequivocally instructed to do so by his client, even if doing so would be contrary to the plea agreement and harmful to the client’s interests.")  Now, the Western District of Kentucky weighs in with a thorough review of existing case law and grants a petitioner a Certificate of Appealability for the Sixth Circuit to rule on the issue.  Previous discussions of the issue by the Sixth Circuit have not been determinative.  Wright v. United States, 320 F. App'x 421 (6th Cir. 2009); Sarlog v. United States, No. 09-3033, 2011 WL 63599 (6th Cir. Jan 7, 2011).