Milbank Litigation associates Brent Culpepper and Anna Dimon recently secured a victory for a pro bono client convicted of assault in the second degree, successfully arguing that the client was denied effective assistance of counsel.
Following his indictment, the client was imprisoned without bail for 99 days, exceeding the amount of time the State legally had to bring him to trial while incarcerated and denied bail under New York law. However, when the client’s counsel filed a speedy trial motion for his release, the lawyer mistakenly reported the client had served only 99 days instead of the correct, greater amount. The error was further compounded when counsel, in a subsequent motion to dismiss the indictment for violation of New York’s Speedy Trial statute, included this erroneous 99-day figure and further underreported the amount of days required to reach the threshold for dismissal.
The error in calculation “robbed the client of his chance to show that his right to a speedy trial had been violated,” Ms. Dimon explains. The Appellate Court agreed, writing in its decision, “We exercise our discretion to dismiss the indictment, rather than ordering further speedy trial proceedings with new counsel, in light of our finding that the indictment would have been dismissed on speedy trial grounds but for the ineffective assistance.”
Prevailing in this manner in a criminal appeal is relatively rare, particularly with an ineffective assistance of counsel argument, Mr. Culpepper notes, but in this case “the facts happened to be on our side.”
Milbank took on the case with the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York. As part of OAD’s Volunteer Appellate Defender Program, Milbank associates work on pro bono appeals, earning valuable courtroom experience and guidance from seasoned appellate practitioners and OAD attorneys. They also enjoy the opportunity to secure justice for clients in need. “I’m firmly committed to pro bono – it’s both meaningful work and great experience,” Ms. Dimon says. “Results like this reinforce that commitment.”