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Florida Death Sentence Rejected in Appeals Court Due to Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Ineffective assistance of counsel is a legal statute that gives persons convicted of a crime a chance to have their case reviewed. It is based on evidence that the defense attorney did a poor job of representation, which resulted in the conviction and/or sentencing. This was the argument that the attorneys of John Gary Hardwick Jr. used in an appeals case with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hardwick was sentenced to Death Row after being convicted of the December 1984 murder of Keith Pullum whose body was found in the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. The appeals court heard the trial because Hardwick's attorneys claimed that he did not receive adequate legal representation, thus the reason for the ineffective assistance of counsel argument.

During the appeals trial the new attorneys argued that Hardwick's former attorney failed to bring up a series of issues to jurors that may have affected their death sentence decision. This included mentioning that Hardwick had a history of substance abuse and was both neglected and abused as a child. The appeals court agreed.

According to reports, appeals court Judge Gerald Tjoflat had this to say in a 45-page ruling, "Because of counsel's deficient performance, the jury saw only a drug dealer who brutally killed someone for stealing his Quaaludes." The state was ordered to either hold a new sentencing hearing for Hardwick or to re-sentence him to life in prison.

Ineffective assistance of counsel was defined in 1984 after a landmark case found that inadequate legal representation is a violation of the Sixth Amendment. The Amendment guarantees the right to a fair and speedy trial and to have the assistance of counsel as his or her defense. To prove this, the defendant must prove that the attorney made serious mistakes that prejudiced the defendant's case.

If you believe that you were found guilty or unfairly sentenced due to ineffective assistance of counsel, contact an experienced defense attorney like Russell Spatz.

Source:, "Death Sentence Rejected in 1984 Murder" 21 September 2015

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