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A petitioner asserting an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under Strickland must show that his counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Counsel's performance is deficient when the representation falls below an objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms. To establish prejudice, the petitioner must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.
Fourteen years ago, an individual entered a Milwaukee convenience store, robbed the store's manager and cashier at gunpoint, and then fled in a getaway car. Petitioner, Warren Goodman, was charged with armed robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The first trial ended in a hung jury. Petitioner was represented by a different lawyer at the second trial. At the first trial, the store's cashier testified that she could not identify the inmate as the robber, but the inmate's attorney failed to subpoena the cashier for the second trial. The attorney also asked a question that permitted the inmate to be cross-examined about previous armed robbery convictions, failed to request a limiting instruction, and failed to object to misleading statements made by the prosecutor. Petitioner was convicted and was sentenced to twenty-two years' imprisonment. Having exhausted his state court remedies, petitioner petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the effectiveness of his counsel during the second trial. The district court denied relief. Petitioner appealed.
Was the petitioner entitled to habeas relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel?
The appellate court found that the petitioner was entitled to habeas relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. A state habeas court's decision denying the petitioner's ineffective assistance claim improperly conflated the Strickland prejudice standard with an inapplicable heightened prejudice standard. Also, the state court unreasonably applied federal law in failing to find that the cumulative errors of the petitioner's attorney warranted relief; there was a reasonable probability that the outcome of the petitioner's second trial would have been different absent his attorney's deficient conduct.