The Appellate Group

State v. Gourdin

State v. Gourdin, 2024 UT App 74 (Harris, J.)

Criminal Law

Defendant appealed his aggravated murder conviction arguing he received ineffective assistance in counsel in two ways: (1) admission of his police interviews and (2) failure to adequately investigate DNA evidence. Later, a rule 23B remand hearing was held. After that hearing, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed, holding:

  • Defendant’s counsel was not ineffective in deciding not to object to admission of his police interviews, but counsel was ineffective by failing to request the DNA files and failing to consult with a DNA expert.
  • Practice tip: The court had “no trouble concluding that reasonable attorneys who receive DNA evidence from the State that they can’t adequately understand will usually need to seek expert assistance to help them adequately understand the evidence.” Further, there is a distinction between choosing not to generate new evidence and failing to understand evidence that already exists.
  • Practice tip: The appellate ineffective assistance of counsel standard does not change when a case is remanded under rule 23B.

Read the full court opinion