Inconsequentially Ineffective

Adair v. State (Unpublished Memo):  Put this one in the “no harm, no foul” category.  Adair was convicted of third degree felony assault of a public servant.  The public servant was a juvenile correctional officer with the Crockett State School.  The officer had tried to search Adair for contraband, and Adair had grabbed her wrist, causing injury.  Adair contends that he didn’t intend injury.

Normally, assault on a public servant has a 2-10 year punishment range.  Adair got a 15 year sentence under Section 12.42 because of a juvenile adjudication that he had sexually assaulted a child under 14 years of age.

Adair’s only ground on appeal is ineffective assistance of counsel.  On that front, his trial counsel didn’t object to the admission of the sexual assault.  Nor did trial counsel object to Adair’s 300-or-so disciplinary incidents in the Crockett State School.  In addition, his trial counsel did not object to a jury charge that allowed the jury to convict based on the lower “nature of the conduct” standard, nor did trial counsel request a proper charge on the higher “result of the conduct” standard.

Under the Strickland test, the Tyler court presumes that Adair’s trial counsel had good strategic reasons for those inactions.  What might those reasons be?  The Tyler court doesn’t say.  Even so, it’s presumed that Adair got effective counsel.  At first blush, a non-lawyer might find this non-sensical.

The bottom line on this case, however, is two pronged.  First, even with a “result of the conduct” charge, a jury can consider recklessness.  The jury could have found that Adair recklessly brought about the result.   And the jury could have reached that result without evidence of the prior sexual assault or the 300 incidents.  Second, though the sexual assault adjudication might not have been admissible at the guilt/innocence phase, it was fair game for purposes of enhancing the sentence.  All-in-all, Adair had the burden to show that the result would have been different if the things he complains about had been changed.  He didn’t carry that burden.  No harm, no foul.

To understand the logic behind cases like Adair’s, see presentations on Strickland by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and State Senator Rodney Ellis.  Of all her decisions, Justice O’Connor considers Strickland one of the two she’ll be most remembered for.

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