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Court finds defense counsel was ‘ineffective’

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has come down hard on a criminal defense attorney who failed to appear for final argument by not submitting a written summation as agreed to by the parties and approved by the judge.

In State v. Dalbec, released yesterday, the court determined the defense attorney’s assistance was “ineffective,” and constituted a structural error requiring a new trial for the defendant, who had been convicted in a judge trial of third-degree sexual conduct.

“Defense counsel’s incomprehensible, blatant neglect of his client and his professional obligations caused the appeal and the result,” wrote Judge Gordon Shumaker. “As distasteful as it is to overturn the decision of the district court, to hold otherwise would be to treat final argument as a perfunctory appendage that rarely has any significant effect on the trier of fact. We are sure that competent lawyers will agree that final argument has the real potential to ‘carry the day.’ It is a procedure that many lawyers would characterize as the jewel in the crown of their case.”

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