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Counsel’s failure to object to expert testimony and hearsay during TPR trial wasn’t ineffective

State v. Johnnie J., 2014AP144 & 2014AP145, District 1, 8/21/14 (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity: 2014AP1442014AP145

Assuming trial counsel should have objected to certain expert opinion evidence and hearsay evidence about Johnnie’s behavior, the failure to do so didn’t prejudice Johnnie because of the overwhelming evidence supporting the jury’s verdicts on one of the two grounds for terminating her parental rights.

The state petitioned to terminate Johnnie’s parental rights based on failure to assume parental responsibility and continuing CHIPS. (¶3). Johnnie argues that three witnesses gave expert testimony that was not sufficiently reliable under § 907.02(1). One witness testified Johnnie “failed” a parenting assessment without presenting evidence as to the validity of the assessment method. (¶16). Another testified about Johnnie’s IQ without presenting evidence demonstrating the reliability of the IQ tests. (¶17). The third witness was a case manager who opined Johnnie wouldn’t meet the conditions of return based on her conduct over the past few years. (¶18). Johnnie also challenges the testimony of witnesses that repeated statements of others describing inappropriate behavior by Johnnie, some (but not all) of which was relevant to her parenting skills. (¶¶20-22).

Even if trial counsel should have objected to all this evidence, there was no prejudice, given the strength of the evidence that Johnnie doesn’t object to showing she failed to assume parental responsibility. (¶¶25-34).

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