Archive | Ineffective assistance of counsel

RSS feed for this section

State v. Spottedbear

State v. Spottedbear, 2016 MT 243 (Oct. 4, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the improper influence statute is unconstitutionally overbroad; (2) whether the state presented sufficient evidence of improper influence; (3) whether the state presented sufficient evidence to convict Spottedbear of criminal trespass; (4) whether the district court properly admitted evidence of Spottedbear’s prior incident with Officer Walker; and (5) whether trial counsel was ineffective.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes; (3) no; (4) yes; and (5) no.

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: In late February 2014, Officer Walker responded to a disturbance between Spottedbear and another customer at Wal-Mart. After speaking to a staff person at the store, Walker told Spottedbear to leave the store.…

State v. Cheetham

State v. Cheetham, 2016 MT 151 (June 16, 2014) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by failing to conduct an adequate inquiry into Cheetham’s request for substitute counsel; and (2) whether Cheetham was denied effective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) the record is insufficient to make this determination on direct appeal, and is better suited for a postconviction proceeding.


Facts: In January 2014, Cheetham was charged with sexual intercourse without consent, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of children, all of which were alleged to have occurred in 2004 when Cheetham and the victim, NS, were living with the victim’s grandmother. At the time of the offenses, Cheetham was 32 and NS was 5.…

State v. Weber

State v. Weber, 2016 MT 138 (June 7, 2016) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by refusing to admit the inventory list offered by defense counsel; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by limiting defense counsel’s examination of defense investigator Peck; and (3) whether defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to admit the evidence.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; and (3) yes.

Reversed and remanded for a new trial

Facts: Weber was a janitor at Sydney High School. He was working the night a tool used to cut metal and steel went missing from the high school shop classroom. The principal later identified Weber on surveillance video on the shop the night the plasma cutter disappeared.…

In the Matter of SH

In the Matter of SH, 2016 MT 137 (June 7, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court relied on sufficient evidence to determine SH required commitment, and (2) whether SH received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.


Facts: SH sought help from the Billings Clinic ER in November 2014, complaining there were snakes in her stomach, black bugs in the toilet, and the voices of God and Satan were arguing in her head. A psychiatrist at the clinic examined her and, upon his recommendation, the state petitioned to involuntarily commit SH on November 12, 2014. The district court ordered SH detained at the clinic pending resolution of the petition, appointed counsel to represent SH, and appointed the clinic psychiatrist as the professional person to evaluate SH.…

State v. Crawford

State v. Crawford, 2016 MT 96 (April 26, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Crawford’s motion to suppress; (2) whether Crawford received ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) whether the district court improperly denied Crawford’s third discovery request; (4) whether the district court erred by denying Crawford’s post-trial motion to dismiss; and (5) whether the district court adequately addressed Crawford’s complaints about his assigned counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) no; (4) no; and (5) yes.


Facts: Crawford was released on parole in December 2010 after incarceration at Montana State Prison for multiple drug-related felony convictions. As a condition of his parole, he was required to obtain written permission from his parole officer before traveling outside of Silver Bow, Beaverhead, Jefferson or Deer Lodge counties.…

In the Matter of KB

In the Matter of KB, 2016 MT 73 (March 29, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over KB’s abuse and neglect proceeding, and (2) whether Father received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: KB was removed from her mother’s care in November 2012, at the age of 5, due to concerns about Mother’s inability to protect KB from domestic violence. KB was placed in kinship foster care with her aunt and uncle, where she has remained. Her younger sister, TH, also lives with aunt and uncle.

KB was adjudicated a youth in need of care in 2013, and the Department drafted a treatment plan for Father.…

Heavygun v. State

Heavygun v. State, 2016 MT 66 (March 22, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Heavygun received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Heavygun was charged with and convicted of deliberate homicide, felony DUI, violation of an order of protection, felony criminal endangerment, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and felony tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison plus other concurrent sentences. His conviction was affirmed by this Court in 2011.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Heavygun petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition, and Heavygun appeals. The Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: Heavygun argues ineffective assistance on the grounds that: 1) he was represented by six public defenders, three of whom were his attorney of record; 2) his attorney failed to investigate and present evidence of his victim’s history of violence; and 3) his attorney failed to adequately prepare him to testify.…

Russell v. State

Russell v. State, 2016 MT 69 (March 22, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.; Cotter, J., dissenting) (5-2, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether Russell received effective assistance of counsel at trial, and (2) whether Russell received effective assistance of counsel on appeal.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes.


Facts: Russell and Spotted Wolf assaulted two men in an alley one night after drinking all day. One of the men died, and the other was seriously and permanently injured. Russell was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and accountability for Spotted Wolf’s robbery and aggravated assault. Russell was convicted by a jury in May 2005, and sentenced. Russell appealed and the Court reversed the conviction for aggravated assault against one victim, as it was an included offense of the felony murder conviction.…

State v. McAlister

State v. McAlister, 2016 MT 14 (Jan. 19, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by denying McAlister’s motions to dismiss, and (2) whether McAlister’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to call any expert witnesses.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) this issue is more properly brought in a petition for postconviction relief.


Facts: McAlister was charged with sexual intercourse without consent after four-year-old AH told her grandmother stories that suggested possible sexual abuse. At trial, AH testified. The state called several experts, and McAlister called none.…

Chyatte v. State

Chyatte v. State, 2015 MT 343 (Dec. 15, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that Chyatte’s trial-related claims were procedurally barred; (2) whether the district court erred by denying Chyatte’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no except for one claim, for which the record is insufficient.

Affirmed and reversed and remanded on one issue

Facts: In September 2011, Chyatte was charged with felony assault with a weapon for a stabbing in Missoula. More than a month before the omnibus hearing, the state filed of its intent to seek increased punishment under the persistent felony offender statute. Trial was set for August 15, 2012. On June 14, 2012, Chyatte’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss the information on the basis of no probable case, as the victim identified another person as the assailant at a photographic lineup.…