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Defense win! Trial court erred in denying a Machner hearing and applying the wrong prejudice test to IAC claim

State v. Victor Yancey, Jr., 2018AP802-CR, 1/8/19, District 2 (1-judge opinion, eligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Stormy applause for Godfrey & Kahn who took this appeal pro bono and then won it! The court of appeals held that Yancey alleged a prima facie claim for ineffective assistance of counsel when he pled guilty and was entitled to a Machner hearing.  It also held that the trial court incorrectly held that to establish prejudice Yancey had to show a “reasonable probability that he would have been able to mount a successful challenge to the State’s evidence at a trial.”

Yancey argued he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial lawyer advised him that if he pled guilty he could still raise concerns about the State’s evidence at sentencing and that the trial court could conduct either an in camera review or a John Doe investigation.  Opinion, ¶9. The trial court denied Yancey’s claim without a hearing. The court of appeals reversed. Yancey in fact made the allegations necessary to get a Machner hearing:

¶22 Yancey’s postconviction motion meets “the five ‘w’s’ and one ‘h’” test; “that is, who, what, where, when, why, and how” as explained in [State v. Allen, 2004 WI 106, ¶23, 274 Wis. 2d 568, 682 N.W.2d 433.] A motion provides “sufficient material facts,” if it provides the name of the witness (the who), the reason the witness is important (the why and the how), and facts that can be proven (the what, where and when). See  Id. ¶24. The Allen test is satisfied as follows: (1) the who is Yancey; (2) the where, when, and what are that in the holding area outside the courtroom immediately before the plea hearing on December 14, 2015, trial counsel gave Yancey misleading advice regarding the likelihood that the trial court would order an in camera hearing or a John Doe proceeding; (3) the how is that the misleading advice led Yancey to misunderstand the effects of pleading guilty and to believe that the trial court could conduct an in camera hearing or John Doe proceeding to expose the police misconduct that Yancey believed had occurred; and (4) the why is that Yancey would not have pled guilty but for trial counsel’s misleading advice because his concerns regarding the reliability and truthfulness of the State’s evidence extended
to his other pending cases. See id.

When claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant must allege both (1) deficient performance and (2) prejudice. If the defendant claims that he pled guilty in reliance on bad advice he meets the second prong by alleging  that ‘but for the counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.’” See State v. Burton, 2013 WI 61, ¶50, 349 Wis. 2d 1, 832 N.W.2d 611 (citation omitted).  The trial judge clearly got the prejudice test wrong:

¶24 . . . As stated, the trial court held that Yancey had not shown that there was a “reasonable probability that he would have been able to mount a successful challenge to the State’s evidence at a trial.”

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Benito Benny Ben January 9, 2019, 10:51 am

    Wow! What a win…or at least that’s what Trump would call this in an attempt to keep people from realizing that this really was not a win.
    As part of this plea in the instant case, Yancey only got one misdemeanor conviction. Too bad he also got convicted of several other felonies (including child sexual assault) from two separate cases issued in 2014 and even more felony convictions from two other cases issued in 2015!! All of those cases went to trial where he was convicted by a jury!! Maybe during this time he realized his rights had been trampled on for the misdemeanor case case and decided that he really wants to have his day in court, I mean go down in flames at trial, one more time.
    He’s due to be released in 2036 so he’ll really be able to savor his “victory” in this case. Great work OPD.

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