Appellate Counsel’s Failure to Raise a Meritorious Claim Leads to Habeas Relief

In Ramchair v. Conway, 08-2004-pr (2d Cir. April 2, 2010), the Second Circuit found that appellate counsel’s failure to raise a claim that the trial court erred in denying a motion for a mistrial rose to the level of constitutional ineffectiveness, and that the New York Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent.

The Second Circuit noted that evidence adduced in the district court (in the form of testimony from appellate counsel) established that the failure to raise the claim was not a strategic decision, but based on a mistaken belief that the claim had not been preserved.  Because the arguments raised by appellate counsel were “extremely weak” while the one omitted was “particularly strong,” the representation fell below the standards of reasonably competent performance.