Archive | conflict of interest

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

How Not To Hire An Investigator

Matthews v. United States, No. 10-0611-pr (2d Cir. June 14, 2012) (Kearse, Cabranes, Straub, CJJ)

Petitioner Michael Matthews was convicted of a 2006 bank robbery and received a life sentence under the federal “three strikes” statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c). After exhausting his direct appeals, he filed a 2255 motion alleging, amongst other things, ineffectiveness of his trial counsel.

Matthew’s specific claim was that his counsel was ineffective because hired a private investigator, an ex-cop named Haumann, whom he knew had a conflict of interest. Matthews alleged that when Haumann was a police officer, he had arrested and “viciously assaulted” Matthews and had also treated him “with racial disdain and insensitivity.” Matthews backed this up with a newspaper article that confirmed the facts, except for the racial allegations. Nevertheless, the district court, adopting the government’s characterization of the claim as “general” “cursory” and “vague,” denied the petition without …

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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Tamper Proof

United States v. Ventry, No. 06-3104-pr (2d Cir. August 15, 2008) (Cabranes, Wesley, CJJ, Castel, DJ).

In this appeal from the denial of a 2255 motion, the circuit faulted the district court’s finding that Ventry’s counsel did not suffer from a conflict of interest. It remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the nature of the conflict and consideration of whether Ventry was prejudiced by it.


Ventry was a suspect in robbery in the Niagara Falls area. After he received a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury, he confessed to his girlfriend, Christine Janik. When Janik was interviewed by an FBI agent, she told the agent when Ventry had said, and signed a written statement, although she later testified that she had felt pressured to make the statement. Janik then told Ventry what she had done and, that same day, broke up with him.

Ventry’s father …

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Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Recuse Me

United States v. Hasarafally, No. 06-4239-cr (2d Cir. June 12, 2008) (Cardamone, Sotomayor, Raggi, CJJ)

The defendant moved in the circuit to disqualify the entire justice department from representing the government on this appeal, because the judgment under review was rendered by Judge Mukasey, who is now Attorney General.

The court denied the motion. It began by noting that there was “very little precedent” on the “potential conflict of interest created by the transition from judge to prosecutor.” The court surveyed a few possible areas of conflict, but skipped the most obvious one: A prosecutor will be unlikely to confess error on appeal if he was the trial judge in the case.

In any event, here there is no possibility for conflict because, the government advises, the attorney general has recused himself “from all matters in which he participated as a United States District Judge.” Thus, he will play no …

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