14 June 2012

A Little Justice

I previously blogged about a woman who was trying to set aside the murder for hire conviction she received in federal court while she was represented by lead defense counsel (Howard O. Kieffer, a felon even before this incident) who claimed that he was a lawyer when he wasn't (whose conviction related to that conduct was recently affirmed on appeal on Monday be remanded for a resentencing).

Her conviction was vacated this week.
A U.S. district judge ruled Friday that Gwen Bergman's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated after she unknowingly hired a fake lawyer, Howard O. Kieffer, to represent her at trial in 2008.
She was sentenced to nine years in prison, but was allowed an early supervised release and good time. She could be retried for the offense (since double jeopardy prohibits retrials after jury acquittals, not after convictions or mistrials). But, given that she served all of her sentence except part of a three year supervised release component of the sentence, the government may decide that it is not worth the time and effort to retry her. (She would receive credit for time served if reconvicted and the there might also be limits on the sentence that could be imposed if she was convicted again). While the decision buys her only a few months of moderately greater freedom at this point, and certainly does not consititute a judicial finding that she is innocent, it also frees her of the many collateral consequences of being a convicted felon whose underlying crime was murder.

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