Tuesday, April 6, 2010

No Lawyer, No-Brainer, You Get a New Trial, Right?

This seems like a no-brainer, you are represented in court by a fake attorney, your 6th amendment rights to counsel have been violated and your conviction should be reversed, right?  Well according to the Denver Post, . . . not necessarily?  Huh?

Gwen Bergman was convicted of a murder for hire and is doing 9 years after being represented by Howard Kieffer, a con man and imposter attorney (see pic.)  Kieffer is about to go on trial for fraud.  The con man tood $70,000 for "reperesenting" Mrs. Bergman.  He apparently had represented a dozen or more folks in federal courts in and about Colorado and North Dakota.  Here's an exceprt from Felisa Cardona's report:  

"A murder-for-hire convict represented in court by a fake attorney lost an appeal to have her conviction and nine-year prison sentence overturned.

But a three-judge panel on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Gwen Bergman's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated during an Oct. 23, 2007, hearing when she was found mentally competent to stand trial.  As a remedy, the appellate court sent Bergman's case back to Senior U.S. District Judge Walker D. Miller to conduct an evidentiary hearing and make a 'retrospective' competency determination to find whether he believes she was of sound mind at the time. If Miller finds Bergman was incompetent, he must throw out her conviction and order a new trial. If he finds she was competent, Miller could still order a new trial.  In her appeal, Bergman argued that her sentence was unreasonably long, but the judges indicated if Miller decides not to conduct a new trial, her prison sentence will stand.

Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes dissented from the remedy decided upon by circuit judges Bobby R. Baldock and Eugene Edward Siler Jr. in the opinion published March 25.  Holmes wrote that a retrospective competency determination would be nearly impossible to do given that three years have passed since the competency hearing.  'I would vacate Ms. Bergman's convictions and remand the case for a new trial,' he wrote. The impostor attorney, Howard O. Kieffer, advised Bergman to go forward with a trial — a move that contradicted what prior defense lawyers advised her to do.  Bergman, who lived in Aspen, was convicted in May 2008 of trying to hire a hit man to kill her son's father."
You see, this seems like a no-brainer to me, but I'm a bad attorney--so I concede that I don't have the brain power of these high-toned federal appellate jurists.  It seems to me that you get convicted of a crime after being represented in a murder case by a non-lawyer, your Sixth amendment rights have been violated, you get a new trial.  Automatic. End of story.

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