Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Effective Assistance of Counsel
People v. Webb
Appealed from Monroe County Court
Background: After conviction at trial of two felony counts of possessing a weapon, the defendant contended on appeal that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The pretrial Sandoval ruling barred the prosecutor from asking the the defendant about one of four convictions. But at trial, his own attorney asked the defendant to list his previous convictions, allowing testimony on all the convictions. Defense counsel then did not object to the prosecutor asking further questions about the underlying facts of the other conviction.
Ruling: Conviction reversed and new trial ordered. This underlying information was particularly prejudicial because the fact pattern was similar to the evidence presented on the indicted crime. The defendant’s credibility was of “primary importance” and his attorney’s conduct was termed “inexplicable.” Defense counsel also failed to object to the prosecutor’s use of defendant’s nickname, “Threat,” which the prosecutor argued should be considered as evidence that defendant possessed the weapon.
William G. Pixley for the defendant; and Leslie E. Swift for Monroe County District Attorney’s Office