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149357 - People v Smith (Ashly)

The People of the State of Michigan,
 
Thomas M. Chambers
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Wayne – Allen, D.)
 
Ashly Drake Smith,
 
Christopher M. Smith
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 

Summary

This appeal stems from a bench trial held in Wayne County Circuit Court. The prosecutor alleged that defendant Ashly Smith broke into the victim’s home and robbed him at gunpoint. After hearing the evidence, the judge found Smith guilty of armed robbery, first-degree home invasion, larceny in a building, possession of a firearm by a felon, and felony-firearm. Smith was sentenced to 13 to 20 years for armed robbery, 13-20 years for first-degree home invasion, two to four years for larceny in a building, and three to five years for felon-in-possession. He was also sentenced to the mandatory two-year term for felony-firearm, to run consecutively to the other sentences.

Smith appealed, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.
For a defendant to establish a claim that he was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel, he must show that his attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that this was so prejudicial that he was denied a fair trial.  Strickland v Washington, 466 US 668, 687 (1984).  In this case, Smith alleged that his trial counsel failed to present an alibi defense, and failed to call several alibi witnesses who would have testified that he could not have committed the robbery. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge ruled that Smith’s attorney made a reasonable strategic decision not to call the witnesses, and that their testimony would not have made a difference in the outcome of the trial. In a split, unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals agreed that Smith’s attorney did not provide ineffective assistance, and it upheld Smith's convictions. The dissent concluded that counsel performed ineffectively by failing to properly investigate Smith's alibi defense.
 
Smith appealed. On October 3, 2014, the Supreme Court ordered oral argument on whether to grant the application or take other action. The parties were instructed to address whether the defendant was deprived of his right to the effective assistance of trial counsel.