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People v. Longtin, 1998 N.Y. Int. 0166 (December 17, 1998).

EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL - CONFLICT OF INTEREST


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether Defendantęs conviction should be overturned because a potential conflict of interest prevented his attorney from providing effective assistance of counsel.

Disposition

No.  The court affirmed the holding of the Appellate Division by determining that defense counsel was not limited by a potential conflict of interest between former meetings with a police investigator and counselęs representation of Defendant.

SUMMARY

In or about September 1991, Defendant was indicted for a number of drug charges, including criminal possession, criminal sale, and criminal use of a controlled substance.  During voir dire on November 5, 1992, defense counsel learned that State Police Investigator Robert Lishansky, who was named as a witness for fingerprint evidence found on packaging material containing the drugs, had been suspended for alleged evidence tampering.  Furthermore, defense counsel informed the court that State Police Investigator David Harding, who served in the same unit as Investigator Lishansky, had previously pled guilty to charges of evidence tampering.   Thereafter, the prosecution informed defense counsel that they would not call Lishansky as a witness and therefore would not introduce the fingerprint evidence at trial.  Investigator Harding was not intended as a witness to this case.

The defense claimed a conflict of interest was present based on contacts that Investigator Harding previously had with defense counsel.  Harding allegedly asked defense counsel to represent him, and had subsequently met with counsel on four occasions.  Furthermore, the defense argued that it should have been informed earlier of Investigator Lishanskyęs suspension, which occurred on October 23, 1992.

In affirming the holding of the Appellate Division, the Court of Appeals stated the potential conflict of interest did not operate on the counselęs representation.  Noting that potential conflicts may exist between former clients and current clients, the court emphasized that Defendant must do more than merely show that defense counsel had a potential conflict of interest.  Defendant did not show the conflict in this case.  Investigator Harding did not participate in the building of a case against the defendant.  His only connection to the defendant was that he served in the same unit as Investigator Lishansky.  Furthermore, any information the defense counsel learned from Harding during the four meetings would be protected from disclosure.


Prepared by the liibulletin-ny Editorial Board.