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State v. Oscar Lopez, WSSC #94418-1

On September 27, 2017 WACDL filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Lopez in the WSSC on review of a COA opinion which reversed the trial court's grant of a new trial. The trial court based its decision on the determination that defense counsel's severe depression affected his performance before, after, and, during trial.

Issues

Whether the trial court's granting of a new trial, which is entitled to a much stronger showing of deference than is a decision denying a new trial, should be reinstated when the trial court's determination that defense counsel's severe depression affected his performance before and during the trial which resulted in ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court ordered a new trial after finding that defense counsel was ineffective at the time of trial based on: (1) the failure to call witnesses to attest to Mr. Lopez' reputation and good character pursuant to ER 404(a)(1); and (2) defense counsel was suffering from a mental illness that affected his performance before and during trial. The COA reversed the decision of the trial court and the WSSC accepted review.

WACDL Amicus

WACDL amicus addressed that when a new trial is ordered, that order is entitled to a much stronger showing of an abuse of discretion before it is reversed than does denial of a motion for a new trial. Additionally, when a trial court determines defense counsel's mental illness rendered his trial performance deficient under Strickland v. Washington, that error should be deemed structural and the prejudice prong normally required by Strickland need not be shown.

WACDL Amicus Author

Tom Weaver

Appellate Author

George Trejo

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