Brief filed: 09/17/2019
Syed v. Maryland
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 19-227
204 A.3d 139 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Mar. 8, 2019)
The Maryland Court of Appeals’ decision is the first and only to hold that trial counsel’s failure to investigate an unbiased and credible alibi witness is not prejudicial. Such an unforeseen decision will impact criminal defendants and, in particular, habeas petitioners, far beyond Maryland’s borders. Both state and federal courts across the country have found prejudice from trial counsel’s failure to call a credible, non-cumulative, and neutral, alibi witness. Those courts have found prejudice even when the government relies on evidence that the alibi witness may not rebut. The decision below calls into question this “clearly established” legal precedent, impairing the ability to remedy nationwide these unique and meritorious ineffective assistance of counsel claims.
Lindsay C. Harrison and Caroline C. Cease, Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC; Jonathan D. Hacker, NACDL, Washington, DC.