Published on: Tuesday, August 1, 2023

After Illinois man withdraws a plea that exposed him to a likely 35-year sentence for, among other things, distributing heroin, the government returns a superseding indictment including additional charges that expose him to a likely 60-year sentence. He goes to trial, is convicted, and is sentenced to 65 years' imprisonment. But wait! Three weeks after the trial, it comes to light that the man's defense lawyer is addicted to heroin and has struggled with substance abuse for quite some time. New defense counsel to district court: We'd like a new trial, please, or at least an evidentiary hearing on whether former counsel's heroin addiction yielded such bottom-shelf performance as to violate the client's Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel. Prosecutor: No way. Defense counsel was not “impaired at any relevant time” District court: No new trial. Two-thirds of a Seventh Circuit panel: Two things—(1) 25 years of the guy's sentence are incorrect, so he needs a new sentencing; and (2) the district court needs to hold an evidentiary hearing on the whole heroin-addicted-defense-lawyer situation. “Not only had his appointed counsel never tried a federal criminal case, he also—according to an uncontested police report—was addicted to and using heroin before, during, and after trial.”

The case is United States v. Evans, No. 22-1195 (7th Cir. July 24, 2023).