This past spring quarter, Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic students Megan Byrne ’14 and John Butler ’14 assisted in the representation of a 39-year-old Three Strikes client. The client was sentenced to 133 years in prison after pleading guilty to the robbery that constituted his third strike. At the trial phase, the client had numerous rights violated, including his right to effective assistance of counsel. The client’s trial counsel failed to complete an adequate investigation for the Romero hearing—a hearing that could have gotten the client’s previous “strikes” removed so that his sentence would have been considerably shorter. His appeal was then severely limited by his trial counsel’s failure to perfect the appeal, and then by his appellate counsel’s failure to raise cognizable appeal issues.
Megan and John assisted in the client’s appeal by conducting the investigation that the client’s trial attorneys should have completed. They have written a state habeas brief addressing this investigation, along with the failures of the client’s attorneys mentioned above. Throughout the process, they have had the pleasure of working closely with the client–who has remained extremely enthusiastic about their work–speaking with him in both person and through letters.