Counsel, Ineffective Assistance, Inability to Admit Evidence

Criminal Law Update

People v Armstrong, 490 Mich 281; 806 NW2d 676 (2011)(oct’11). Mr. Armstrong, 25, was charged with twice brutally raping a 15 year old. The complainant had some serious credibility issues. She testified that after the second alleged rape she made no effort to contact defendant. Her cell phone records provided an abundance of evidence to the contrary. Trial defense counsel who, according to the court, had been practicing only 8 months, became flustered by an objection from the prosecutor when he tried to admit the phone records without a proper foundation, and gave up. The trial court and the court of appeals agreed that the performance prong of Strickland had been met, but both ruled that there was insufficient prejudice to defendant to require reversal. The supreme court disagreed, and noted that the cell phone records provided the only documentary proof that the complainant “lied to this jury.”