Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

OSJCL Amici Board of Advisors

OSJCL Amici: Views from the Field

Knowles v. Mirzayance

  • The argument was heard on January 13, 2009.
  • Issue: The issue here is whether the defendant’s lawyer’s recommendation to withdraw an insanity plea constituted ineffective assistance of counsel for purposes of federal habeas law.
  • Background: When Alex Mirzayance was charged with first-degree murder, his attorney developed a defense plan where Mirzayance would first attempt to secure a verdict for second-degree murder, then try to prevail on an insanity defense. But, at the first stage, the jury found Mirzayance guilty of first degree murder. The attorney decided to withdraw the insanity plea because he believed that the first-degree murder conviction signaled that the jury believed the murder was premeditated, so the jury must have believed that Mirzayance was sane. But this reasoning was based on a mischaracterization of the law.



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