Commonwealth v. Lane

After being convicted of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition arising out of a shooting, defendant moved for a new trial, claiming ineffective representation by counsel. The judge granted the motion, noting that identity was the central issue and defense counsel had essentially promised in his opening statement that the jury would hear from a witness, Levesque, who had provided a description of the shooter markedly different from that of defendant. Defense counsel cited credibility concerns, stating, "I don't want to call Levesque because I don't have the burden of proof in this case,... This is about the police and what they did, and what they didn't do." Defense counsel was permitted to hypothesize about Levesque's absence in his closing argument. The Appeals Court reversed. The supreme court upheld the trial court decision. Having presided over the trial and a full hearing on the motion for a new trial, the judge was exceptionally well poised to assess the potential impact of Levesque's testimony on the case, to understand counsel's reasons for not calling Levesque, and to scrutinize whether that decision was manifestly unreasonable when made. View "Commonwealth v. Lane" on Justia Law