Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Hears Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel Appeal From Lillelid Murderer

Friday, March 22, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

The recently decided Sixth Circuit case of Howell v. Hodge began in 1997 when Karen Howell and five of her friends set off from Pikeville, Kentucky to New Orleans. At the time, Howell was only 17-years-old, another of the group was 14 and the rest were over 18. The group of friends brought two guns with them on their journey and discussed forcibly trading in their broken down car for a newer one along the way.

While stopped in Greeneville, Tennessee, an opportunity to steal a better car presented itself. A Jehovah’s Witness, Vidar Lillelid, came up to Howell and her friends and began to share his religious views.

One of Howell’s compatriots brandished a gun and walked Lillelid back to his family’s van despite Mr. Lillelid’s offer of his wallet and his keys. The group ended up ordering Lillelid to pull over on a secluded stretch of road, at which point, all four members of the family were shot multiple times. The only person to survive was the Lillelid’s two-year-old son who lost an eye in the attack.

Howell and her group attempted to flee to Mexico but were caught in Arizona after failing to cross the border. Howell and her friends still had several of the Lillelid’s possessions when they were apprehended.

Prosecutors in Tennessee then filed charges and initially sought the death penalty. In exchange for dropping the death penalty charges, the group pled guilty to the crime, with Howell and the other minor pleading guilty in adult court. Howell was eventually sentenced to three life sentences to be served consecutively without the possibility of parole.

Howell then filed a petition for relief, claiming that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. She said that her attorney at the time should have insisted that she take a psychological evaluation to determine if her mental state required that she be committed to a psychiatric institution, which would have prevented her being transferred to adult court. The case made its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which found that although the attorney had indeed been deficient, Howell was not able to show prejudice.

The Sixth Circuit agreed to hear the case and laid out that for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim to succeed under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, a claimant must show that deficient performance resulted in prejudice. The Sixth Circuit agreed with lower courts that there were reasonable grounds to believe Howell was not “committable” at the time of her trial. Thus, her attorney’s lack of action to get her a psychological evaluation does not prove prejudice. Moreover, the Sixth Circuit says that for a claimant to make such an ineffective assistance claim, he or she must establish that, but for their counsel’s ineffectiveness, he or she would not have pled guilty and would instead have gone to trial. Howell never says that, just that she might have been committed to an institution for a brief period of time for evaluation.

The Sixth Circuit ultimately affirmed the conviction and the ruling of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Court found that the test for ineffective assistance of counsel is a demanding one that requires claimants prove that the likelihood of a different result is substantial, not just conceivable.

To read the full opinion, click here.

---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


New Car Wash Planned At East Main And Holtzclaw

Chattanooga Chamber Calendar Of Events June 14-18

Chattanooga Bar Associations Seeks Nominations For Liberty Bell Award


A new car wash is planned at the corner of E. Main Street and Holtzclaw Avenue. Jeffery Nation owns the 1.9-acre site. A request before the Planning Commission is for a setback deviation ... (click for more)

June 14, ONLINE: New-trepreneur Bookkeeping noon-1 p.m. New to being an entrepreneur? This information-packed class covers 10 of the most common bookkeeping mistakes and practical, efficient ... (click for more)

Each year, the Chattanooga Bar Association honors an outstanding citizen in the Chattanooga area with the “Liberty Bell Award” for public service. Nominations are currently being solicited for ... (click for more)



Business

New Car Wash Planned At East Main And Holtzclaw

A new car wash is planned at the corner of E. Main Street and Holtzclaw Avenue. Jeffery Nation owns the 1.9-acre site. A request before the Planning Commission is for a setback deviation to allow for the required space for cars to exit the car wash. Berry Engineers is handling the project. (click for more)

Chattanooga Chamber Calendar Of Events June 14-18

June 14, ONLINE: New-trepreneur Bookkeeping noon-1 p.m. New to being an entrepreneur? This information-packed class covers 10 of the most common bookkeeping mistakes and practical, efficient solutions to overcome them. Hosted by TSBDC and HR Business Solutions. Register here . No cost. June 15, ONLINE: Red Bank/Signal Mountain Council Meeting noon-1 p.m. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

New Dodge Ram That Crashed And Burned On I-75 South Near Dalton Was Owned By Edd Kirby Adventureland

The Georgia State Patrol said a new Dodge Ram that crashed and burned on I-75 South near Dalton on Monday afternoon belonged to the Edd Kirby Adventureland car dealership in Dalton. Authorities have still not given an identity of the driver, who perished in the wreck six days ago. A number of people in the auto industry said they believe well-known car dealer Joe Kirby was ... (click for more)

34-Year-Old Man Killed In Shooting Early Saturday Morning Outside The Mapco On Brainerd Road

Billy Burson, 34, was shot and killed early Saturday morning outside the Mapco on Brainerd Road. Chattanooga Police were dispatched to a hold-up alarm at 4711 Brainerd Road at approximately 12:30 a.m. Officers located Burson suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and secured the scene. Hamilton County EMS responded and pronounced Burson deceased on the scene. Investigators ... (click for more)

Opinion

Marsha Blackburn Should Focus On Finding Compromise On The Infrastructure Bill - And Response (2)

Marsha seems obsessed with Dr. Fauci. Does it always have to be about her? I wish it was more about us. If it was more about us, instead of Marsha, she would be hard at work finding compromise on the federal infrastructure bill. No other city in the nation would benefit more from the infrastructure bill than Chattanooga. But Marsha has never read the bill and does not ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Sunday Funnies

Hooray for the Sunday Funnies, which usually show up when technical difficulties take place just before midnight on Friday, snuffing out the customary Saturday Funnies. It should be known technical difficulties include “Operator Error” as the fault for delay but there is neither rhyme nor reason to what happened on Friday. Suffice it to say this version of the Sunday Funnies was ... (click for more)