Alleged Lawyer Misrepresentation for Not Retaining a Forensic Expert

In People v. West, 187 Ill. 2d 418, 432, 241 Ill. Dec. 535, 719 N.E.2d 664 (1999), the murder defendant appealed the denial of his postconviction petition, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to retain a forensic expert. The defendant's theory at trial was that the victim's mother murdered the victim. To advance his theory, the defendant claimed that it was essential to show that the victim's external injuries predated the time when the victim began living with the defendant. West, 187 Ill. 2d at 426. Rather than retaining his own forensic expert, defense counsel cross-examined the State's expert to prove the defendant's theory. The supreme court concluded that defense counsel was not ineffective in West. On cross-examination, the State's expert testified that the victim suffered some of her external injuries while she was living with her mother. The supreme court concluded that a second forensic expert would have merely offered cumulative evidence. Therefore, the defendant failed to show how the testimony of a second expert would have affected the outcome of the trial. West, 187 Ill. 2d at 433-34.