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Law and Biosciences Blog

The Daily Digest, 3/15/11

Today, I am presenting at a conference in New York City entitled Law and the Brain. This two-day conference delves into many of the different aspects of law and neuroscience discussed here on the Daily Digest, particularly from the criminal law perspective. The speakers include some who will also be at the Law and Memory conference at Stanford Law School on April 1, 2011, to discuss the scientific, legal and ethical issues arising from new memory research.

The case today is another failed ineffective assistance of counsel claim, this time because the defendant claims his neurological condition, which impacted his memory, was not adequately investigated and that it should have been to challenge his competency to enter a guilty plea. The colloquy between judge and jury and the investigation pursued by defense counsel were deemed adequate.

IAC, Competency, Memory Loss
U.S. v. Virella, 2011 WL 830548 (D.Conn. 2011)
Defendant claims ineffective assistance of counsel, alleging that his counsel (1) failed to bring to the attention of the Court his mental condition and health issues; (2) failed to have him evaluated; and (3) failed to contest whether he was competent and capable to enter a guilty plea. Before the plea hearing, defense counsel sent a letter to the Court alerting the Court to the defendant’s recent hospitalizations and treatments for seizures and the effects this had on his memory and ability to read, as well as his related mental issues. Defense counsel also stated that based on his “course of dealings” with the defendant he believed him to be competent. Defense counsel also sought permission to seek a neuropsychological evaluation in aid of sentencing to determine the extent of the defendant’s memory loss. The Court held that based on the record, defense counsel made a great effort to bring the defendant’s mental condition and health issues to the Court’s attention and adequately explore the situation with a mental health professional. In addition, due to defense counsel bringing the defendant’s mental problems to the Court’s attention, the Court engaged both the defendant and defense counsel in a lengthy inquiry at the plea hearing to determine the defendant’s competency. Accordingly, the defendant’s Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence was denied.

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