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5. Denial of right to defense

State v. Decarlos K. Chambers, 2019AP411-CR, 2021 WI 13, 2/23/21, affirming a per curiam court of appeals opinion,  case activity (including briefs) SCOTUS recently held that when a client expressly asserts that he wants to maintain his innocence, defense counsel cannot override that objective and concede guilt. If counsel does, a structural error occurs, and… Read more


State v. Decarlos K. Chambers, 2019AP411-CR, petition for review of per curiam opinion granted 9/16/20; case activity (including briefs) Issue presented (derived from Cambers’ petition for review): The State charged Chambers with 1st degree reckless homicide. He maintained that he had not committed the crimes and that was absolutely innocent. He refused all plea offers… Read more


State v. Duanne D. Townsend, 2019AP787, 6/9/20, District 1 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) Good news: the court of appeals reversed a circuit court decision denying Townsend’s §974.06 motion without a hearing. Townsend now gets a one on his claims for ineffective assistance of postconviction and trial counsel. Bad news: the court… Read more


State v. C.L.K., 2019 WI 14, reversing an unpublished court of appeals opinion; 2/19/19; case activity (including briefs) The State of Wisconsin petitioned the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to terminate C.L.K.’s parental rights, following which the matter went to trial in due course. After the State rested, the circuit court immediately  decided that Mr. K… Read more


State v. Kyle Lee Monahan, 2018 WI 80, affirming an unpublished court of appeals decision, 2014AP2187, case activity (including briefs) You wouldn’t know it from the opinions, but the parties here briefed (and WACDL filed an amicus brief on) a question of harmless error doctrine. When trying to decide whether a trial error is harmless… Read more

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McCoy v. Louisiana, USSC No. 16 – 8255, 2018 WL 218-617, 5/14/18, reversing and remanding State v. McCoy, 2018 So.3d 535 (La. 2016); SCOTUSblog page (includes links to briefs and commentary). In a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Ginsburg, SCOTUS holds that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his… Read more


This new law review article by Daniel Epps examine the subject in depth. Consider this excerpt from the abstract: Judges and commentators sharply disagree about which (and even whether) constitutional errors can be harmless, how to conduct harmless-error when it  analysis applies, and, most fundamentally, what harmless constitutional error even is-what source of law generates… Read more


How to beat the “harmless error” rap

For the 2015 SPD conference, Judge Sankovitz and Attorneys Rob Henak and Melinda Swartz prepared an excellent outline on a problem that plagues many defense lawyers on appeal.  They have a great issue. They win it, but then the court of appeals or supreme court finds the error harmless.  This detailed, well-researched outline walks you… Read more