Taft Wins Seventh Circuit Appeal for Pro Bono Client

On Oct. 4, Taft won a victory in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a pro bono client. Taft Chicago attorneys Ben Morrell and Mike Mayerck represented an individual who was convicted of a non-violent drug crime in Indiana state court and sentenced to 50 years in prison, the statutory maximum.

Taft argued to the Seventh Circuit that our client received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing when his lawyer failed to discover or present mitigating evidence of his social background and mental health – and that a state appellate court unreasonably applied federal law in finding otherwise.

In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit vacated the lower court’s denial of our client’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court held that the Indiana Court of Appeals misapplied federal law in concluding that his lawyer’s performance at sentencing was not constitutionally deficient. The Court further found that counsel’s performance was deficient and that our client suffered prejudice as a result. The Court then remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing in the district court to determine whether his lawyer had strategic reasons for limiting the investigation and presentation of evidence at sentencing, and whether his habeas petition should be granted.

Morrell is a litigator in Taft’s Employment and Labor Relations group. His practice focuses on complex employment disputes involving class and collective actions, restrictive covenants, wage-and-hour issues, and trade secrets. He also maintains a broad appellate practice and has represented clients in federal and state appellate courts across the country. Mayerck is an associate in Taft’s Commercial Litigation group. He represents clients in the defense of product liability, premises liability, personal injury, environmental, construction defect, and toxic tort matters.

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