The Appellate Group

McCloud v. State

McCloud v. State, 2021 UT 14 (Himonas, J.)


Defendant was convicted of sexually molesting his daughter. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief under the Post Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA), asserting ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel had not consulted with certain experts and failed to subpoena the complainant’s medical records. That petition was denied because his claims could have been—but were not—raised on direct appeal. The court allowed him to amend his petition to bring a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for not raising the issue on direct appeal. On direct review, the Court of Appeals held that appellate counsel is not ineffective unless the claim is “obvious from the trial record.” The Court of Appeals relied on the “unusual circumstances” exception to reach Defendant’s underlying ineffectiveness claims, ultimately finding that appellate counsel was not ineffective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • The Court of Appeals erred in relying on the “unusual circumstances” exception to reach petitioner’s claim. The “obvious from the trial record” standard is further repudiated. Ineffective assistance of counsel claims are governed only by Strickland v. Washington’s reasonableness standard.
  • Petitioner’s claims failed because trial counsel was not deficient and any failure to subpoena records did not result in prejudice.
  • The PCRA barred any claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel that could have been raised on direct appeal

Read the full court opinion