Florida Court Holds Trial Court Improperly Ruled Testimony of Witnesses was Cumulative in Evaluating a Motion for Relief Due to Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In most criminal cases, whether a defendant is convicted or found innocent depends on the sufficiency of the evidence presented by both parties. If you are charged with a crime, it is important that any evidence that may be helpful to your defense be presented at your trial. Evidence is not always concrete but includes testimony from any eyewitnesses who have information regarding the alleged crime.

While it is not necessary to present duplicative testimony, as illustrated in a recent Florida Court of Appeals case, Martin v. Florida, if a defense attorney fails to call a beneficial witness due to the fact that some testimony may be cumulative, it can be fatal to a defendant’s case and may constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. If you face criminal charges, it is essential to retain a proficient Tampa criminal defense attorney who will gather any evidence that may help you to obtain a favorable result.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, the police responded to a call that methamphetamines were being sold out of the defendant’s house. There were five people in the house when the police arrived, including the defendant and two women. The first woman locked herself in the bathroom when the police arrived. The defendant permitted the police to begin searching the house while they obtained a warrant. After the police obtained the warrant, the woman left the bathroom and the police found a bag of methamphetamines in the trash can. Consequently, the defendant was charged with drug trafficking.

Witness Testimony

Reportedly, the defendant argued at his trial that he did not know the drugs were in the trash and that the drugs belonged to one of the other people in the house. The defendant’s attorney called one of the men in the house at the time of the search, who testified that the first woman went into the bathroom when the police arrived and that the second woman regularly used that bathroom. The man did not offer any testimony regarding who owned the drugs, and the defense did not offer any other witnesses. The defendant was convicted.

Following his conviction, the defendant filed a motion for post-trial relief, arguing that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to call the first woman as a witness. He attached an affidavit to his motion in which the first woman stated she was at the courthouse during the trial and was willing and able to testify on the defendant’s behalf. The court denied his request, on the grounds the first woman’s testimony would have been cumulative to the testimony of the man who testified on defendant’s behalf. The defendant appealed, arguing he had the right to an evidentiary hearing.

Court of Appeals Holds Trial Court Improperly Ruled Testimony of Witnesses was Cumulative

On appeal, the court noted that declining to introduce cumulative evidence does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. The court stated, however, that the transcripts from the trial showed that the testimony of the first woman would not have been cumulative of the testimony of the male witness. While some of the testimony was duplicative, some were not and would be beneficial to the defendant’s case. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

Schedule a Consultation with a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a Tampa resident charged with a crime, it is essential to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney who will work hard to help you obtain a successful result under the circumstances. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a Tampa criminal defense attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you formulate a sound defense. Contact our offices at 813-228-7095 or via the online form to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Sentencing Issues in Florida Prescription Drug Trafficking Cases March 28, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Proposed Florida Law Gives Judges More Discretion in Sentencing Drug Offenders November 8, 2017, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Florida Court Rules that Liquid By-Product Counts in Meth Trafficking Case March 31, 2017, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog