Both the Massachusetts State Constitution and the United States Constitution protect criminal defendants’ right to be effectively represented by counsel during their prosecution. A convicted person who can demonstrate that their attorney was ineffective in representing them may be entitled to the reversal of a conviction, even when the defendant pleaded guilty to the charges against them. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently reversed a man’s conviction for sex trafficking charges after it came to light that his court-appointed defense attorney had been publishing extremely bigoted statements against both the religion and the race of the defendant to social media while he was representing the defendant.
According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the defendant in the case was a black man who was also a practicing Muslim. The defendant was unable to afford an attorney, and was appointed a public defendant to represent him through the prosecution. While representing the defendant, his attorney chastised him for wearing a Muslim prayer cap in the courthouse, made other derogatory statements toward the man’s race and religion, and told the defendant that he would be unable to obtain a different attorney if he tried. As a result of advice given to him by his attorney, the man pleaded guilty to the crimes against him and was sentenced to over seven years in state prison for his crimes.
Several years later, it was discovered that the defendant’s attorney had been publishing bigoted and derogatory statements toward both Muslims and nonwhite people throughout his time representing clients as a court-appointed attorney. Based upon this newly discovered information, the defendant requested a new trial, arguing that the biases of his attorney prevented him from effectively representing and advising the defendant. The trial judge rejected the defendant’s motion, finding that the defendant failed to demonstrate any actual prejudice to himself based upon the attorney’s personal controversial beliefs.
The defendant appealed the ruling to the state high court, arguing that the personal biases of the attorney were so glaring, and his offensive published speech so brazen, that prejudice to the defendant must be assumed and that the attorney could not have effectively represented him in the case. The state Supreme Court agreed with the defendant, ruling that the defendant had established the attorney had an actual conflict of interest in representing the client, and that the conflict manifested in the representation. The court found that under the Massachusetts Constitution, such a conflict of interests entitled the defendant to a new trial. As a result of the recent high court ruling, the defendant’s conviction will be reversed, and the State will need to try him for the charges again if they wish to obtain a conviction.
The Importance of Competent and Effective Counsel
If you have been arrested or charged with a Massachusetts crime, it may be tempting to accept the representation of a public defender to fight the charges against you. Public defenders can be some of the most skilled and diligent attorneys in the courtroom, but that is not always the case. Serious charges warrant a serious legal strategy, and it can be dangerous to simply hope that a qualified attorney is assigned to your case. The Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy are experienced in fighting all kinds of criminal charges for Massachusetts clients, and with our representation, you can be confident that your case is being handled properly. Our legal fees are fair and reasonable, and we work with our clients to make sure they can afford our services. Don’t take any chances. Our attorneys represent clients charged with all Massachusetts misdemeanors and felonies, including sex offenses. Contact our office at 617-367-0450 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers.