20-year-old rape conviction overturned by Utah Supreme Court

The Utah Supreme Court overruled the conviction of a man who was convicted of raping a woman more then twenty years ago.  The Court stated that the defendant’s rights were trampled on and he deserves a new trial.

Three days before the defendant’s trial in 1988, his attorney quit and went to work for the Utah County Prosecutor’s office (the same office that was prosecuting the defendant).  After being appointed another attorney, the defendant was convicted and his attorney was replaced to work on his appeal.  His attorney changed again, and then again.  The defendant’s appeal was ultimately dismissed because his fourth attorney did not file a brief to the court.  Finally, the defendant had a fifth attorney who succeeded in his appeal to get the defendant resentenced.

However, the Utah Supreme Court wrote in their opinion, “[f]or nearly ten years, McClellan remained unaware he had been resentenced and was once again able to exercise his right to appeal his conviction of sixteen years earlier.  McClellan was not made aware of the resentencing order until the spring of 2004…”

The defendant has sat in prison for twenty years all because of a progression of bad attorneys whom not manage his case well.

The lesson in this case is: a defendant must hire an excellent attorney to ensure that their rights will not be trampled on.

The case is State v. McClellan, 2009 UT 50.