How Long a Nap Is Ineffective Assistance of Counsel?

If your defense attorney falls asleep during your trial, and you are convicted, do you have an ineffective assistance of counsel claim? That may depend on how long your attorney was asleep, and whether you can demonstrate prejudice. Yesterday, in Muniz v. Smith, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied a habeas petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel because the defense attorney fell asleep while the defendant was under cross-examination. A courtroom nap, by itself, is insufficient to establish ineffective assistance of counsel unless the attorney is asleep for a “substantial portion” of the trial, and that could not be demonstrated here. Further, the defendant could not demonstrate he was prejudiced by his attorney’s nap.

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