Criminal Law: Post-Conviction Relief
The trial court determined that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose exculpatory information or the entire file of State handwriting expert Steven Drexler. To establish a Brady violation, the petitioner must show: (a) that the prosecution suppressed evidence; (b) that the evidence was favorable to the defendant; and (c) that the evidence was material to the issues at trial. In this case, defense counsel knew that there was writing exemplars and stipulated to their authenticity. The Court declined to find counsel in-effective in this situation.
An attorney’s decision whether to retain witnesses is a matter of trial strategy. The circuit court found fault with defense counsel for failing to hire a pathologist. “A post-conviction petition does not show ineffective assistance merely because it presents a new expert opinion that is different from the theory used at trial.” There is no indication that counsel conducted themselves in any manner but as skilled advocates in the face of compelling evidence of Gissendanner’s guilt. Clearly, this is not a case where counsel failed to investigate and was not prepared for trial.” Reversed. State of Alabama v. Gissendanner