Court Remands Narcoterrorist's Ineffective Counsel Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The first Afghan Taliban member to be tried in a U.S. federal court won a partial victory in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week, McClatchy reports.

While the appellate court upheld Khan Mohammed's narcoterrorism conviction on the merits, it remanded his case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on his ineffective counsel argument.

Mohammed claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to adequately explore the possibility that evidence was available that would have significantly strengthened Mohammed's defense. Mohammed further argued that his initial trial attorney didn't call any defense witnesses and offered no evidence on his behalf.

Under the D.C. Circuit's 1990 United States v. Poston ruling, an appellant who offers an ineffective assistance argument on direct appeal must present factual allegations that, if true, would establish a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. These allegations must satisfy both prongs of Strickland v. Washington: deficient representation and prejudice.

If the appellant makes a colorable claim, the D.C. Circuit will remand the case for an evidentiary hearing, (unless the "record alone conclusively shows that the defendant either is or is not entitled to relief").

Here, the court agreed that there was sufficient evidence of ineffective counsel to remand the case.

But Mohammed didn't hit a home run in the court.

He also challenged his conviction and life sentence for narcoterrorism, arguing that the evidence presented at his trial could not sustain his conviction under federal law because the government did not show that he knew that the money from his drug dealing would support terrorist acts.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentence, noting, "Mohammed need not have planned for his drug proceeds to fund terrorist ends. It is sufficient that the proceeds went to a terrorist - him."

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