On February 24, 2014, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Hinton v. Alabama that goes directly against how many courts expect defense lawyers to practice. The Court held that a defense lawyer’s failure to request additional funds to replace an inadequate expert amounted to deficient performance. From the opinion: “Criminal cases will arise where the only reasonable and available defense strategy requires consultation with experts or introduction of expert evidence.” This is the second case in three years where the Supreme Court has said that a defense lawyer should recognize the importance of determining whether he/she should use an expert to assist in the defense of a criminal case.

Many trial court judges are under enormous strain to keep their budgets under control. They are understandably quick to worry about a lawyer running up a bill on a court appointed case by using investigators, experts, et cetera. I never mind a budget-conscious judge; they’re just doing their job. But the Supreme Court has made it clear that I can be held ineffective if I don’t do mine by asking for and using all the tools available to me to adequately defend my client.

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