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IAC Claim – Lack of Prejudice

State v. Christopher Donnell Jones, 2010AP164-CR, District 1, 3/29/11

court of appeals decision (not recommended for publication); for Jones: Melinda A. Swartz, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate; case activity

Counsel’s failure to impeach police officers with their reports, which omitted certain details they testified to, wasn’t prejudicial. Therefore, the postconviction court properly denied relief without holding a Machner hearing.

¶18 We disagree.  The omission of these reports did not prejudice Jones’s case.  This is not a case where, as noted in Richards, “conflict between the reports and the testimony” or even “omission from the reports of facts related at the trial” would have been “relevant and material to [Jones’s] case.”  See id. (some quotation marks omitted).  The arrest detention report, for example, only summarized the most basic facts about the incident.  Indeed, by its very nature—including the fact that the space for the officer’s narrative was quite limited—one can plainly see that it was not intended to contain every detail of every fact observed by every on-scene officer.  Similarly, Dodds’s report reads more like a summary than a detailed account of the events, and the facts omitted from them had nothing to do with the actual transaction.

¶19 Moreover, even if the reports had been admitted, and even if the officers had been cross-examined regarding the reports’ omissions, the best that trial counsel might have done would have been to show that the police reports were not very thorough.  Counsel would not have overcome the strong evidence of guilt in this case, including eyewitness testimony from two officers of a hand-to-hand transaction, drugs obtained from the hand-to-hand transaction, and a defendant who later inculpated himself during booking.  In other words, the record conclusively demonstrates that Jones was not prejudiced by trial counsel’s failure to introduce and cross-examine the officers on the reports.  See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.

The court’s additionally holding non-prejudicial two other asserted instances of deficient performance – having to do with failure to investigate apparent discrepancies in police log and inventory reports; failure to object to a line of questioning – is in the nature of things fact-intensive and limited in import to the case at hand, ¶¶20-23.

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