Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Based Upon Strategic Decision in New York

In People v. Benevento, 91 NY2d 708, 697 N.E.2d 584, 674 N.Y.S.2d 629 (1998), defendant was convicted of second degree robbery after a jury trial. On direct appeal, defendant claimed ineffective assistance by his trial counsel based upon counsel's strategic decision to, in essence, concede that defendant had engaged in the conduct alleged, but "lacked the requisite intent to deprive the complainant of her property" due to his intoxication at the time. (Id. at 710). Benevento also took issue with counsel's trial tactics when he indicated in his opening statement that defendant would testify as to such lack of intent, but defendant ultimately failed to take the stand. The Court of Appeals reversed the First Department's Decision which had ordered a new trial, and affirmed Benevento's conviction. In so holding, the Court rejected the outcome - determinative approach to evaluating counsel's effectiveness; the Court made clear that as long as the trial strategy and tactics pursued by counsel were reasonable under the circumstances, a 20-20 hindsight disagreement over them will not be held to have deprived a defendant of meaningful representation.