Superior Court: Counsel Ineffective For Failing To Request Character Jury Instruction

Filed under: Criminal Law by Contributor @ April 5, 2014

In Commonwealth v. Reyes-Rodriguez the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the court’s denial of PCRA relief. The Superior Court found that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a jury instruction that character evidence in favor of Reyes-Rodriguez, in and of itself, could create reasonable doubt or establish innocence. A jury found Reyes-Rodriguez guilty of numerous offenses after he allegedly sexually assaulted three minors, despite character evidence in his favor.

In Commonwealth v. Neely, 561 A.2d 1, 3 (Pa. 1989), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that “[a] criminal defendant must receive a jury charge that evidence of good character (reputation) may, in and of itself, (by itself or alone) create a reasonable doubt and justify an acquittal of the charges.” (emphasis added). Since trial counsel did not request this instruction, had no strategic reason for not doing so, and Reyes-Rodriguez was clearly prejudiced as a result, trial counsel was ineffective and the PCRA court’s denial of relief was reversed.

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