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Maryland v. James Kulbicki - (05 Oct 2015)

How effective must counsel be?


The United States Supreme Court reversed a ruling that James Kulbicki’s defense team were unconstitutionally ineffective and had deprived him of a fair trial. Kulbicki was accused of shooting his mistress pointblank and prosecution had relied on the ‘similar’ characteristics of the metal fragments found in his mistress’s brain, those found in his truck and matched the same to a bullet recovered from his gun. Kulbicki’s petition against ineffectiveness of counsel stemmed from their failure to question the legitimacy of the report admitting bullet comparisons. The Court of Appeal determined Counsel’s failure to identify the report as against scientific method “fell short of prevailing professional norms”. In its reversal of the finding, the Supreme Court noted there was no rationale behind the judgment, which only proposed an alternate trial strategy based on hindsight; counsel had not wasted time in what was, at the time, an uncontroversial analysis; their failure to find a report to question the ballistics methodology would have required rigorous manual search in State libraries.


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