June 7, 2023 By Matthew Wallin

In the case of Kelsey v. Garrett, defendant Zachary Kelsey was able to get his conviction reversed after he successfully argued that he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel. This case stresses the critical importance of retaining experienced criminal defense lawyers to defend you. If you or your loved one has been convicted of DUI due to ineffective assistance of counsel, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. We will review your case and determine if you may have solid legal grounds to set aside your conviction. 

Background 

Defendant Zachary Kelsey was convicted of second-degree murder after a fistfight led to the death of one of the participants. Kelsey was tried with two co-defendants, each with their own counsel. Although Kelsey’s counsel was an experienced litigator, he chose to waive the closing argument at the suggestion of co-defendant’s counsel. However, co-defendant counsel actually presented a defense that was adversarial to Kelsey’s, meaning the waiver likely hurt Kelsey’s case. Accordingly, Kelsey sought habeas relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Kelsey’s counsel claimed that waiving the closing argument was a strategic decision made to prevent the prosecution from presenting a rebuttal encouraging the jury to convict for first-degree murder. When the district court denied habeas relief, Kelsey appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeal. 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel 

In order to prove ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, the defendant must prove that 1) counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and 2) there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have had a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt if the errors were not made. 

In Kelsey’s case, Kelsey’s counsel waived the closing argument at the suggestion of co-defendant’s counsel despite the fact that the co-defendants’ defenses were directly adversarial to Kelsey’s. Even co-defendant’s counsel admitted that he would not have waived the closing argument if he were Kelsey’s counsel. If Kelsey’s counsel had made a closing argument, he could have explained that Kelsey’s actions were not the proximate cause of the victim’s death and asked the jury to charge Kelsey for a lesser offense. 

As such, Kelsey’s counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and this deficient performance prejudiced Kelsey at trial. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to issue Kelsey the writ of habeas corpus. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you or your loved one has been convicted of a crime due to ineffective assistance of counsel, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. At Wallin & Klarich, we stay up to date with the most recent legal developments so that we can better assist you. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys have helped many clients win their cases or successfully reduce their sentences, and we have the skills and resources to help you or your loved one in your time of need.  

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney. We will be there when you call.

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