Sproule v. Coursey

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Post-Conviction Relief
  • Date Filed: 02-10-2016
  • Case #: A151768
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J. for the Court; Hadlock, C.J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant failed to prove inadequate assistance of counsel after being restrained during trial because he did not prove that the restraint, not visible to the jury, affected the outcome of his trial.

Sproule appeals a judgment denying his petition for post-conviction relief and argues that relief should have been granted because his criminal trial counsel was inadequate for failing to object to the use of a leg brace to restrain petitioner during the trial. Sproule’s counsel requested that he be restrained during trial with a leg brace instead of shackles because the leg brace would not be visible to the jury and the shackles could be prejudicial. Sproule was convicted and sentenced to over 35 years in prison. The post-conviction court found that the leg brace was not visible to the jury and that Sproule suffered no prejudice. Evaluation of inadequate assistance of counsel requires a two-step inquiry: “(1) determine whether petitioner demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence that his lawyer failed to exercise reasonable professional skill and judgement; and (2) determine whether he proved that counsel’s failure had a tendency to affect the result of his trial.” When restraints are not visible to the jury, the court should not presume prejudice. Sproule failed to show prejudice by presenting evidence that the brace either inhibited his decision to take the stand as a witness or that the brace limited his ability to consult with counsel. Sproule also failed to show that any alleged prejudice affected the outcome of the trial. Affirmed.

Advanced Search