Stephanie King is serving life in prison for the murder of her two-and-a-half-year-old stepson, Michael Cox. According to the prosecution, King shook the child repeatedly to make him stop crying and then hit his head against a toilet seat. The child died. As a result, King was sentenced to life in prison.
Let’s backtrack a moment. During the trial, the prosecution offered King a plea deal for 25 years with probation to follow after she is released from prison. Her defense attorney advised her not to take the deal because if she got life, she would be “let out in 25 years anyway”. She did not take the deal.
As it turns out, when the State of Florida sentences you to a life sentence, they actually mean that you will spend the rest of your life in prison.
King filed an appeal three years after the verdict came back guilty for ineffective assistance of counsel. In other words, King claims that her attorney’s advice was so bad it actually made her situation worse.
King is Correct – Her Lawyer was Incompetent
Any lawyer that tells his client that she shouldn’t take a plea because she’ll only serve 25 years of a life sentence is, in fact, incompetent. As it turns out, an appellate agreed with her deduction and awarded her a hearing. Unfortunately for King, that hearing was canceled because she also filed a petition with the state Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court kicked the case back down to the appellate court.
Eight years passed and nothing happened. Her parents asked another law firm to look into the matter. That law firm got her a hearing before a circuit court judge that ruled King had indeed had cause to claim that she was given ineffective assistance of counsel. The judge ordered the prosecution to offer her a plea deal once again.
At this point, King has served 85% of her 25-year sentence. In other words, if she takes the deal she will likely go free. However, the prosecution argued that King said that if she spent 25 years in prison her family would likely all be dead. The prosecution interpreted that to mean she would not have taken the deal regardless of how effective her counsel had been.
On that basis, the state has filed an appeal of the circuit court’s decision hoping to keep her behind bars for the rest of her life.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel as a Grounds for Appeal
While ineffective assistance of counsel is occasionally grounds for a successful appeal, the majority of claims are not as cut and dry as Stephanie King’s. Despite her counsel being incompetent and misguiding her completely, her battle is far from won. Even in cases in which the attorney falls asleep during the trial, the courts don’t always award an appeal, but that, of course, is Texas. In New York, if you’re attorney falls asleep during your trial, you will be awarded a second trial. So what about Florida? It’s impossible to know until the decision is made.
Scott Skier Law Firm Defends the Accused
The West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at Skier Law Firm, P.A. help criminal defendants get a fair trial under the law. We’ve managed high profile murder trials and routine DWIs. If you have been accused of a crime, give us a call at (561) 220-3355 or contact us online, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.