Case Caption: Omar Jamil Suarez v. Government of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2009-0099Date: 06/12/2012Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

Petitioner was convicted of rape and aggravated rape based on allegations of sexual contact with a minor. After exhausting all appeals, he petitioned the Superior Court for a writ of habeas, claiming that his trial court counsel provided ineffective assistance to him in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Failure to call the victim's grandmother as a defense witness was not deficient performance by petitioner's trial counsel, since her testimony could have had only small value in the circumstances of this case, and did not provide a viable defense. However, the Superior Court correctly found that trial counsel's performance fell below a reasonable standard of professional assistance in failing to object to testimony by the People's expert expressing the conclusion that the victim was sexually assaulted and suffered emotional trauma - testimony not based on any specialized knowledge as required, and which relied on methodology that did not adhere to the intellectual rigor demanded of doctors in diagnosing illness, with a significant gap between the data, second-hand information, and the conclusion offered. Counsel's performance was also deficient in failing to object to the People's questions about events leading up to the police interview with a witness, which raised issues of obstruction of justice that had absolutely no tendency to prove or disprove any fact related to the charged sexual misconduct, and on appeal the People concede that trial counsel's conduct fell below the reasonable standard of professional assistance on this point. However, based on a review of the totality of the evidence, petitioner has failed to carry the burden of showing that there was a reasonable probability that his trial counsel's deficiencies undermined the reliability of the result of the proceeding. Therefore, the Superior Court's October 1, 2009 Order denying the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion