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Dual representation by a defense attorney of both a criminal defendant and a state prosecutor creates an actual conflict of interest which undermines the defendant's constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel.
Defendant was convicted of criminal attempt to commit extreme indifference after a shooting. The lower court appointed an attorney in private practice to represent defendant due to his financial inability to retain his own attorney. The attorney, during the same period in which this case was being prosecuted, also represented the district attorney in connection with a recall petition and an indictment for overspending his budget. Defendant challenged his conviction, contending that a conflict of interest on the part of his trial counsel deprived him of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel.
Was the defendant deprived of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel, thereby warranting the reversal of his conviction?
The court reversed the conviction because defendant was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel at trial in violation of U.S. Const. amends. VI and XIV and Colo. Const. art. II, § 16. The court held that a lawyer representing such conflicting interests could not avoid being adversely affected at various stages of the criminal prosecution of an accused. She owed her undivided loyalty to both clients. There was a real and substantial conflict that placed the defense attorney in a situation inherently conducive to and productive of divided loyalties. Defendant did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently relinquish his constitutional right to conflict-free representation.