The year after his wife’s death, Ken Middleton was on trial for first degree murder. Before the proceedings commenced, Mr. Middleton asked his lawyer, Robert Duncan, repeatedly whether they should request the assistance of gun experts, forensic experts, etc. In each instance, his attorney, Robert Duncan told him "Don't worry about it." "There's no motive." "They'll never convict you."
Mr. Duncan couldn't have been more wrong. The trial lasted less than two days. The jury deliberated for just over an hour during which time they ate lunch. Ken was found guilty and ultimately sentenced to life without parole plus 200 years.
Prior to the trial, Robert Duncan failed to familiarize himself with the prosecution's case. He didn't review the evidence that was to be presented in the proceedings. Mr. Duncan should have objected to the erroneous, flawed, and potentially false statements that were presented. At no time did Mr. Duncan protest or object to the inflammatory statements that were made against Ken. He did not put a single witness on the stand. He did not provide an opening statement. In short, Mr. Duncan was nothing more than "a body sitting in a chair" (Refer to the transcript of proceedings below - Christopher O'Hara Carter testimony – from the 2004 appeal hearing)
Refer to the following links to view the sworn affidavits taken in 1995 from the original defense attorney, Mr. Duncan. These affidavits show that, by his own admission, Mr. Duncan did NOT adequately perform his duties prior to or during the trial.
Review of Robert Duncan's Performance During 2004 Evidentiary Hearing
Mr. Christopher O'Hara Carter, is a recognized expert in the rules of professional responsibility with regard to prosecutorial ethics and defense representation. These rules are governed by the sixth amendment to the constitution and are further defined in the 1985 Supreme Court Case, Strickland v. Washington found here: http://www1.law.umkc.edu/suni/wrongful_convictions/Strickland.htm.
In Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court’s findings included the following:
1. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of counsel, and the benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result. The same principle applies to a capital sentencing proceeding - such as the one provided by Florida law - that is sufficiently like a trial in its adversarial format and in the existence of standards for decision that counsel's role in the proceeding is comparable to counsel's role at trial. Pp. 684-687.
2. A convicted defendant's claim that counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal of a conviction or setting aside of a death sentence requires that the defendant show, first, that counsel's performance was deficient and, second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense so as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial. Pp. 687-696.
(a) The proper standard for judging attorney performance is that of reasonably effective assistance, considering all the circumstances. When a convicted defendant complains of the ineffectiveness of counsel's assistance, the defendant must show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential, and a fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time. A court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. These standards require no special amplification in order to define counsel's duty to investigate, the duty at issue in this case. Pp. 687-691.
(b) With regard to the required showing of prejudice, the proper standard requires the defendant to show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. A court hearing an ineffectiveness claim must consider the totality of the evidence before the judge or jury. Pp. 691-696.
In his testimony, Mr. Carter specifically addresses the Strickland v. Washington rulings and both Robert Duncan and Gerald Handley’s (Mr. Handley is a subsequent attorney involved in the case) failures to meet the standards defined by the Supreme Court’s definition as well as those identified in the Sixth Amendment (see below).
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."