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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 20393
Experience:  Licensed attorney with 29 yrs. exp. in criminal law
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My friend is currently embroiled in a federal conspiracy drug

Resolved Question:

My friend is currently embroiled in a federal conspiracy drug case and is in custody awaiting a trial in July. The lawyer his parents hired for him last December admitted he doesn't even know the name of the prosecutor who is handling his case. He also told my friend last week that he forgot that the prosecution offered my friend a plea agreement in January, but it is just a general agreement they are offering to all 11 people who are involved.

The FBI told my friend and his parents that my friend was on the very fringe of that group. My friend has completed a 12-step program in jail and he needs someone to represent him and act as a go-between him and the prosecution, since his first lawyer never even once talked to the prosecutor. There is plenty of evidence (text messages, voicemails, etc.) that shows he wasn't part of that group of 11 and in fact was in another state during 90% of the investigation. He doesn't even know and has never met any of the people involved, except for one.

We realize it's too late in the game to switch lawyers, but since his lawyer has done nothing on his behalf, he has agreed to petition the court to have himself removed from the case. However, if that does happen, is it going to be difficult to find a new lawyer willing to take this case since it's so late in the game? The trial is scheduled for the end of July.

Should he just forget about it all and just sign the agreement (which is ten years in prison) or should he pursue getting a new lawyer who is willing to negotiate with the prosecutor and point out in transcripts and text messaging that shows my friend is "on the very fringe" of the case, as the FBI pointed out?

It's disheartening because we believed that his lawyer was already doing those things during the last six months, but by his own admission, he doesn't even know the name of the prosecutor nor has he gone over ANY of the evidence. I think a public defender would have done at least that much?

Sorry so wordy here. Just need some advice on what he should do from here. I'm afraid he may never come out of prison alive, as he is HIV +. It's a horrible horrible mess and we simply don't know what to do about it. Thanks very much.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 5 years ago.

Well, if the facts that you have shared are true, then he likely has an ineffective assistance of counsel claim against his current attorney. That said, he can still request through motion to the court that he be allowed to terminate his current attorney and have time to find another one. If his attorney is willing to withdraw, then the court may or may not allow the withdrawal. If the court wants to protect the record though, they will generally allow the replacement of counsel if there is an issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. Because if he is convicted and appeals his conviction latter and an appeals court finds ineffective assistance of counsel, the conviction can be overturned.

I have no idea whether the court will approve the change, but he should at least try. As for whether he should go forward with his defense and not guilty plea, I can't give that kind of advice because I am not only not allowed to by the rules of this Site that both you and I agreed to as Users, but also because I don't have access to the evidence of the case. It would be unethical and irresponsible for me to give an opinion. That he will have to decide after consulting with his attorney, old or new.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I have a couple clarifications..

How does he motion the court for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim from jail? Does he need to find a new attorney first and have the new attorney do that for him?

My friend's parents spoke with another defense lawyer who agreed that the first lawyer did not do his job, but then declined to represent him because she felt it was too close to the trial date, but mostly because she didn't want to "clean up another lawyer's mess".

I'm just wondering if he is going to be difficult to find another lawyer because they'll all share that same attitude?
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 5 years ago.
Hello again,

Well at this point he needs to get his attorney that he currently has to motion the court to let them withdraw, then at the hearing he will have the opportunity to say that he agrees and say that he has lost confidence in his attorney and why.

As mentioned in my initial response, if the judge says no and the case goes forward and he is convicted, then he would hire an appellate counsel, or be assigned one if he qualifies for a public defender, to appeal his conviction. One of the basis for the appeal, could be the ineffective assistance of counsel.

There really is no way to make someone take his case, unless he is qualified for a public defender, and then he can ask for a public defender. Federal public defenders are generally just as focused, if not more, on getting the best result for their clients as one who is paid. But again, he would have to qualify. Otherwise, it is just hit and miss to find a criminal defense attorney who handles Federal cases to take his case.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks very much. You've been incredibly helpful. Take care!
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 5 years ago.
You're welcome and best of luck to you and your friend.