Failing to Investigate Alibi Witnesses or Evidence May Result in Ineffective Relief of Counsel
Appellate Docket No.: A-31-19
Decided January 14, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reviewed an application for post conviction relief (PCR) based on ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to call alibi witnesses to a shooting.
In State v. Gideon, Gideon was arrested after being implicated by an eyewitness, Vincent Robinson, in a July 2004 shooting in Camden. On the day of his arrest, Gideon provided police officers with a statement. Gideon told the officers that he had fought with Tony Alford earlier on the day of the shooting, after Alford allegedly robbed individuals who sold drugs for Gideon. After the fight, Gideon walked home and, before arriving, was stopped by Alford, who was driving by. Alford told Gideon “it ain’t over,” which Gideon interpreted as a threat. Upon arriving home, Gideon called Eric Jackman. Jackman, Gideon, and a third man rode in Jackman’s car, looking for Alford. Believing they saw him, they parked and entered an alley. Gideon then heard gunshots.
At trial in 2007, the State played the audio recording of Gideon’s statement to police and offered the testimony of Robinson, who said he saw Gideon and two others wearing black and armed, standing in the alley at the time of the shooting.
Gideon testified that police “told [him] what to say” during his initial statement. In contrast to that statement, Gideon testified that, before arriving home, he saw his mother, Gideon-Nichols, who drove Gideon back to the scene of the fight to make peace with Alford and shake hands, then drove Gideon home and went to work. On cross examination, Gideon testified for the first time that he remained home through the night with his girlfriend, Bey. Gideon-Nichols and Bey were present at Gideon’s trial but did not testify. Gideon was convicted on multiple counts. Five years later, Gideon filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief (PCR), alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to investigate and call Gideon-Nichols and Bey as alibi witnesses.
The PCR court denied Gideon’s petition, noting that, were Gideon-Nichols and Bey to have testified, both would have contradicted Gideon’s trial testimony. The Appellate Division reversed, vacated Gideon’s conviction, and remanded for a new trial, relying in large part on State v. Pierre, 223 N.J. 560 (2015). The Supreme Court of New Jersey granted certification.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey found the because the PCR court found that Gideon’s testimony would have been contradicted by the alibi evidence, the PCR court’s finding should not have been disturbed. The Court affirmed the sentence.
This case is important because alibi witnesses or evidence, no matter how miniscule, must – at the very least – be investigated by your attorney. Failing to do so may result in ineffective relief of counsel. More importantly, failing to investigate, discuss, and use the alibi evidence may result in your conviction. Do not leave your case for the public defender or an attorney who is too busy to pay attention to the details of your case. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Hark & Hark today.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest.
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