Murder Conviction Reversed Due to Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel
Mr. Alvarenga was charged with second-degree murder and related counts. There was no physical or eyewitness testimony connecting him to the shooting. At trial, the prosecution relied primarily upon the testimony of a woman who was allegedly in the same gang as Mr. Alvarenga. She told the jury about alleged statements made by Mr. Alvarenga, and that another individual — who did not testify at trial — had pled guilty for his role in the incident and had entered into a cooperation agreement. The defense did not present a case.
Finding defense counsel’s errors deprived Mr. Alvarenga of the effective assistance of counsel, the Appellate Division reversed. The Court identified three errors: (1) the failure to object to evidence elicited by the prosecution pertaining to the nontestifying alleged accomplice, which violated the right to confront witnesses; (2) the failure to request either an accomplice-in-law or accomplice-in-fact jury instruction with respect to the woman who did testify at trial; and (3) the failure to timely request a missing witness charge for the nontestifying alleged accomplice. The conviction was reversed and a new trial was ordered.
Cynthia Colt represented Mr. Alvarenga