Every criminal defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by a competent lawyer. Even murder convictions can be set aside if the court believes that the defendant's lawyer did not provide an effective defense to the criminal charges in the case. In a recent case, an Orleans parish judge reversed a murder conviction after finding that the defendant's attorney did not provide a competent defense.
The murder occurred in 2004 outside a Gentilly gas station. The defendant was arrested in 2005 but did not come to trial until 2011. At the trial, the prosecution relied on testimony of a sole eye witness who testified that, while sitting in her car, she saw the defendant shoot the decedent twice in the head. Several appeals followed the conviction. In 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered the trial court to determine whether the defendant's attorney did a competent job.
In its recent order, the trial court found that the defense attorney failed to interview any of six known witnesses. Several of these witnesses described the murderer as being at least six feet tall, whereas the defendant stood only 5'6". The defense attorney also failed to challenge the prosecution's central theory that the murder had arisen out a dispute between the defendant and his brother. The court also criticized other aspects of the defense counsel's pre-trial investigation as "inadequate."
The prosecutor in the case has indicated that his office will appeal the trial court's ruling. Meanwhile, the court will determine if the defendant should be released on bail during the appeal. The defendant's attorney said his client was thrilled with the court's ruling and that he was feeling really good.
Source: New Orleans Advocate, "Orleans Parish judge overturns conviction of man in 2004 Gentilly killing; cites ineffective trial lawyer," Matt Sledge, July 14, 2017