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A Better Partnership
December 26, 2014

MSC grants mini-oral argument to consider whether failure to inform defendant of mandatory life without parole sentence constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel

In People v. Trowbridge, the Michigan Supreme Court has granted mini-oral argument to consider granting leave to appeal where counsel failed to inform the defendant that, upon conviction, the defendant faced mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole. Defendant appealed arguing that the counsel’s failure to inform him of the sentence constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant was convicted of three counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from the sexual abuse of his six-year-old daughter. Because the defendant had a previous conviction for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from the sexual abuse of a four-year-old boy, he faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Neither the parties nor the trial court realized that the mandatory sentence applied until after trial, and the defendant rejected multiple plea offers.
The Court of Appeals held that the failure to inform the defendant that the mandatory life sentence applied did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s factual finding that the defendant would not have likely accepted the prosecution’s second plea office if he had been property advised of the mandatory sentence.

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