Conviction Reversed Due to Attorney’s Conflict of Interests

Gonzalez v. State

Gonzalez filed a PCR action claiming that his trial attorney had a conflict of interests when he represented Gonzalez at trial. The PCR court denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The Supreme Court reverses.

The nature of the conflict that Gonzalez identifies is as follows: Gonzalez was charged with trafficking marijuana and methamphetamine. At the same time, Gonzalez’s mother’s boyfriend Dino Perez was charged with trafficking marijuana. Trial counsel represented both Gonzalez and Perez, simultaneously. After Gonzalez was tried and convicted for trafficking methamphetamine, he hired a new lawyer for his appeal. Appellate counsel immediately arranged for Gonzalez to provide authorities with information about Perez’s narcotics activities in order to obtain leniency for his remaining marijuana trafficking charge. The result of this arrangement was that Gonzalez was now a key witness against Perez – and Gonzalez’s attorney represented both parties.

The Court states that “prejudice is presumed if the defendant demonstrates that counsel actively represented conflicting interests and that an actual conflict of interests affected his lawyer’s performance.” The Court concludes that the conflict affected trial counsel’s representation, in that trial counsel failed to advise his client of favorable options (i.e. providing the government with information about Perez) – options which were immediately exercised by Gonzalez once he was made aware of them by conflict-free counsel.

Read the full opinion here.


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