Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Could Overturn Murder Conviction

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201Erick Maya has successfully appealed his conviction by arguing that he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel. This is despite the fact that he was represented by one of the most highly-regarded criminal defense attorneys in Illinois, George Lenard. Maya was accused and convicted of murdering Romeoville 15-year-old Briana Valle in 2014 in a highly publicized criminal trial. The case brought to light several issues in the age of the internet including Facebook stalking.

According to the prosecution, Valle met the young woman on Facebook when she was 13 years old. The two carried on a romantic relationship of sorts until, at some point, the relationship went downhill. The prosecution accused Maya of threatening to rape Valle and kill her family and then shoot her to death. They say that Maya then hired a taxi driver to bring him to Valle’s home. He got cold feet and left but, later, he went back and carried out his threat. He was charged in the murder of Briana Valle and the attempted murder of her other family members, including her mother whom he shot in the neck.

Attorneys for Maya appealed the verdict, which saw the defendant sentenced to 122 years for the murder and attempted murder. The appeals court has not yet overturned the verdict in the trial nor have they ordered a new trial. They did, however, rule against the circuit court’s decision that Maya received a fair defense.

Juror Key to the Appeals Court Decision

The major question that will need to be determined is whether or not a specific juror should have been allowed to decide on Maya’s fate. The juror in question acknowledged during jury selection that he was a corrections officer currently employed by the Will County Sheriff’s Department. Part of the problem for the prosecution was that the defense attorneys only used five of their seven peremptory challenges and did not use one on the corrections officer, creating a potential conflict of interest. While the more cynical might say that this was the defense’s plan all along, it creates a serious problem for the integrity of the entire trial that this particular juror was allowed to decide on the case.

Maya filed the appeal on his own accusing Lenard of ineffective assistance of counsel based on the admittance of that particular juror to the jury. While the appeals court rejected the circuit court’s ruling that the juror selection was not a big deal, it stopped short of vacating the sentence or ordering a new trial. Many wonder if that will be the next step.

The defendant claims that the juror had altercations with Maya and told other inmates that he harmed a young female in the hopes that the inmates would attack him. There is no question that this juror should not have been allowed to decide Maya’s fate.

On the other hand, the case against Maya is fairly solid. You have a person who threatened to kill a young woman after she broke up with him who was found hiding underneath a porch nearby after the murder.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime in Chicago, Attorney David Freidberg can help defend your right to a fair trial. Give us a call at (312) 560-7100 or talk to us online. We can help.

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