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Hearing required on whether trial counsel was deficient for failing to call witness

State v. George D. Taylor, 2015AP1325-CR, 4/27/17, District 1/4 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Taylor raises a host of challenges to his felony murder conviction. The court of appeals rejects all of them except one: an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, which the court orders must be assessed at a Machner hearing.

Taylor and two other men were charged with killing a man during an armed robbery. Taylor argues he’s entitled to a new trial on multiple grounds. The number of Taylor’s claims and their fact-intensive nature results in a lengthy decision, so this post gives only a brief synopsis of Taylor’s main arguments and the court’s resolution of them.

  • Taylor argues the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to timely disclose evidence he asserts is favorable to him and material to guilt. The court concludes the evidence it isn’t as helpful as Taylor asserts, and even corroborates the State’s case, and that Taylor’s argument regarding some of the evidence is undeveloped. (¶¶6-35).
  • Taylor claims the circuit court erred in denying two defense mistrial motions. One of Taylor’s co-defendants, Steven Hopgood, made the same claim in his appeal, and the court rejects Taylor’s claim for the same reasons it rejected the co-defendant’s claim. (¶36).
  • Taylor asserts the circuit court improperly limited cross-examination of Saffold, the State’s main witness. These arguments are rejected as undeveloped or without merit. (¶¶37-45).
  • Taylor argues trial counsel was ineffective in six different respects. (¶47). All but one are rejected as conclusory, undeveloped, or for the same reasons given in Hopgood’s appeal. (¶¶70-74). The remaining claim is that Taylor’s trial lawyer should have called a witness named Walton, who could have potentially discredited Saffold’s testimony in ways over and above the impeachment evidence Taylor already had at his disposal. The circuit court held that failing to call Walton wasn’t prejudicial, but the court of appeals disagrees, and remands for a Machner hearing to determine whether trial counsel was deficient for failing to call Walton. (¶¶50-69).
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