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United States v. Wright

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

March 25, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
DANIEL WRIGHT, APPELLANT

Argued: December 13, 2013.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:92-cr-00131-1).

Sandra G. Roland, Assistant Federal Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was A.J. Kramer, Federal Public Defender. Neil H. Jaffee, Assistant Federal Public Defender, entered an appearance.

Lauren R. Bates, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. On the brief were Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman and Angela G. Schmidt, Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Elizabeth H. Danello, Assistant U.S. Attorney, entered an appearance.

Before: GRIFFITH and KAVANAUGH, Circuit Judges, and RANDOLPH, Senior Circuit Judge. OPINION filed by Circuit Judge KAVANAUGH.

OPINION

Page 1232

Kavanaugh, Circuit Judge:

In this case, Daniel Wright appeals from his conviction by guilty plea. We affirm.

In 1992, Daniel Wright, Antoine Washington, and Glen Early, Jr., were arrested following a high-speed car chase through the streets of Washington, D.C. The police found drugs in the car in which the three men were traveling. All three were indicted and charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Washington and Early went to trial later that year and were convicted and sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison and 14 years and 6 months in prison, respectively. See United States v. Washington, 12 F.3d 1128, 1132, 304 U.S. App. D.C. 263 (D.C. Cir. 1994). But Wright disappeared before trial after having been released on bail.

Wright was eventually caught and brought back to the District of Columbia in 2008 to face the 1992 drug charges. Attorney Douglas Wood was appointed to represent Wright. A few weeks after his appointment, Wood recalled that he had previously represented Washington in Washington's appeal (albeit not at Washington's trial). Wood recognized that his prior representation of Washington might result in a conflict of interest in his representation of Wright. Wright soon also became aware of the potential conflict, but

Page 1233

he did not object to Wood's continued representation. Although Wood continued to represent Wright during several months of plea negotiations, Wood brought in conflict-free counsel Jenifer Wicks to consult with Wright before and during the entry of his guilty plea. Wright eventually pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. See 21 U.S.C. § § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C). He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Wright now appeals. He claims that Wood's prior representation of Washington created an impermissible conflict of interest.

A defendant asserting an ineffective assistance of counsel claim must show (1) that defense counsel's performance was deficient and (2) that counsel's deficient performance affected the outcome of the defendant's case. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Conflict of interest claims such as that asserted by Wright in this case are a " specific genre" of ineffective assistance of counsel claim. United States v. Bruce, 89 F.3d 886, 893, 319 U.S. App. D.C. 245 (D.C. Cir. 1996). In Cuyler v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that a defendant who asserts a conflict of interest claim on appeal or in habeas proceedings generally must demonstrate only that an actual conflict of interest adversely affected his lawyer's performance. 446 U.S. 335, 348, 100 S.Ct. 1708, 64 ...


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