DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday declined to grant a new trial to a convicted robber who claimed his constitutional right to an effective lawyer was spoiled by an attorney who discussed strategy with him for just minutes in jail on the eve of trial.
The court heard arguments about Ashly Smith’s case on April 1 but refused to intervene in a two-sentence order. The decision was 4-3.
The court’s majority typically doesn’t elaborate when it issues orders. But Justice Mary Beth Kelly wrote a detailed dissent, saying Susan Reed, an experienced Detroit-area attorney, failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into Smith’s alibi.
Reed “met with defendant to discuss trial strategy for the first time the night before trial,” Kelly said. “That meeting lasted approximately 15 minutes, a fact not disputed by counsel.”
A Wayne County judge convicted Smith of many crimes at the 2012 trial, including armed robbery. Smith had alibi witnesses lined up, but Reed said she didn’t use them because she believed the prosecutor had presented a weak case.
Reed didn’t return a phone message or email seeking comment Friday on the Supreme Court’s order.
Kelly said Reed’s preparation for trial was “seemingly impassive.”
“The evidence of (Smith’s) guilt was particularly weak,” Kelly said. “The only evidence against defendant was the testimony of the victim. There was no other evidence corroborating the victim’s eyewitness account.”
Two justices, Richard Bernstein and Bridget McCormack, joined Kelly’s dissent. Smith is eligible for parole in 2027.
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