Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lynch v. Wall

Superior Court of Rhode Island

January 22, 2018


         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Gerald Lynch, pro se Glenn Sparr, Esq.

          For Defendant: Jeanine McConaghy, Esq.


          CARNES, J.

         Before this Court is Gerald Lynch's (Lynch) application for postconviction relief (Application) challenging his jury conviction of four counts of first-degree sexual assault and a sentence of twenty years, with ten years to serve on each count, and ten years suspended with probation.[1] Lynch now requests this Court grant his Application and enter an order overturning his conviction. This matter is before this Court pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-1.


         Facts and Travel

         This Court gleans facts from the Rhode Island Supreme Court case State v. Lynch, 19 A.3d 51 (R.I. 2011), and the facts are further developed herein. The events that gave rise to Lynch's convictions transpired in the 1980s, over twenty years before the complainant, M.G., [2] filed a report with the Pawtucket Police Department. In 2004, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Lynch with nine counts of first-degree sexual assault in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-37-2. The case was tried before a jury in October 2006. Of the nine incidents giving rise to the matter, eight consisted of Lynch performing oral sex on M.G., and the remaining count encompassed a single instance of Lynch forcing M.G. to perform oral sex on him. At trial, M.G. testified about the incidents. With respect to two of the incidents that occurred when M.G. was a high school freshman, M.G. could not recall if or how much force Lynch used. At the close of evidence, the state dismissed those two counts. Subsequently, a jury convicted Lynch on four counts and found Lynch not guilty of three other counts of first-degree sexual assault.[3]This Court denied Lynch's motion for judgment of acquittal and his motion for a new trial and sentenced Lynch to the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI). Thereafter, Lynch appealed his conviction to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court affirmed this Court's judgment.

         In August 2015, Lynch filed an Application alleging fourteen different grounds and also filed for appointment of counsel.[4] This Court appointed counsel to represent Lynch. Thereafter, on June 10, 2016, Lynch, with the assistance of new counsel, filed a verified application for postconviction relief. In March 2017, counsel filed a motion to withdraw and a corresponding no-merit memorandum, also known as a "Shatney Memorandum."[5] In his Shatney Memoranda, counsel addressed each of the fourteen claims Lynch included in his verified application, as well as an additional five issues Lynch asked him to research. Lynch contended his attorneys were ineffective and that he was entitled to postconviction relief for the following reasons: (1) ineffective assistance in making unreasonable strategic trial decisions which deprived Lynch of his right to a fair trial; (2) ineffective assistance in not properly objecting; (3) ineffective assistance in failing to adequately and sufficiently cross-examine witnesses; (4) ineffective assistance in failing to call character witnesses during the defense's case; (5) ineffective assistance in failing to call proper witnesses in support of defense; (6) ineffective assistance in not allowing Lynch to testify in his own defense; (7) ineffective assistance in failing to communicate and adequately discuss defense strategies with him; (8) ineffective assistance in failing to properly preserve trial errors so they could be raised at the appellate level and on his postconviction appeal; (9) failure of the authorities to take a statement from necessary witnesses; (10) ineffective assistance in not properly investigating Lynch's background to develop defense theory; (11) ineffective assistance in not cross-examining complaining witness about his discharge from the United States Coast Guard; (12) ineffective assistance in not calling witnesses that the private investigator spoke with; (13) ineffective assistance by misinformation from his attorneys that there was no way to verify that M.G. applied for, or had received, funds from the Victim's Crime Indemnity Fund; (14) Lynch was prejudiced by mention of "repressed memory" testimony even though no such testimony was elicited during trial; (15) prosecutorial misconduct by the State through withholding a statement; (16) ineffective assistance in failing to corroborate if witness Joseph Daurado was present on a boat; (17) ineffective assistance in failing to adequately investigate M.G.'s military discharge status in effort to undermine his credibility and financial motive; (18) ineffective assistance in failing to question a witness about police responding to his home after an arrest; and (19) the trial justice erred in commenting at sentencing on Lynch's involvement with the Boys and Girls Club after having ordered the evidence not be elicited during the course of trial.

          Counsel, in the first Shatney Memorandum, concluded and thoroughly explained that each of Lynch's contentions lacked merit, and he asked this Court to conduct a hearing to determine whether it agreed. This Court conducted a hearing and granted counsel's motion to withdraw. Nevertheless, Lynch indicated he wished to continue his pursuit for postconviction relief. Counsel agreed to remain on standby to facilitate[6] witness examination at future evidentiary hearings. Moreover, at that time, Lynch raised additional issues upon which he alleged he was entitled to postconviction relief. Counsel submitted another Shatney Memorandum addressing Lynch's new arguments and ultimately concluded each contention meritless.

         Attorneys Leonard O'Brien (O'Brien) and Lise Gescheidt (Gescheidt) represented Lynch throughout his jury trial. After Lynch submitted his Application alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, this Court held two separate evidentiary hearings where Lynch had the opportunity to represent himself and question his former attorneys regarding their performance throughout his trial. The relevant facts and exchanges from those hearings are further developed and applied herein.

         II Standard of Review

         "[T]he remedy of postconviction relief is available to any person who has been convicted of a crime and who thereafter alleges either that the conviction violated the applicant's constitutional rights or that the existence of newly discovered material facts requires vacation of the conviction in the interest of justice." DeCiantis v. State, 24 A.3d 557, 569 (R.I. 2011) (citing Page v. State, 995 A.2d 934, 942 (R.I. 2010)) (further citation omitted); see also § 10-9.1-1. "An applicant for such relief bears '[t]he burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such relief is warranted' in his or her case." Brown v. State, 32 A.3d 901, 907 (R.I. 2011) (quoting State v. Laurence, 18 A.3d 512, 521 (R.I. 2011)). Postconviction relief motions are civil in nature and thus governed by all the applicable rules and statutes governing civil cases. Ferrell v. Wall, 889 A.2d 177, 184 (R.I. 2005).

         III Analysis

         As discussed above, Lynch filed an Application on several grounds and now asserts he was denied effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.[7] For the reasons stated herein, this Court rejects Lynch's Application and upholds his conviction.

         A Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         The United States Supreme Court case Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), which our Supreme Court has adopted, is the benchmark decision when faced with a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Brown v. Moran, 534 A.2d 180, 182 (R.I. 1987); LaChappelle v. State, 686 A.2d 924, 926 (R.I. 1996). A petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must overcome a high burden in proving his claim. See Rice v. State, 38 A.3d 9, 17 (R.I. 2012); Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 (2010).

          1 First Prong

         A Strickland claim entails a two-part inquiry, and a petitioner must satisfy both requirements to prevail. First, a petitioner must prove that counsel's performance was deficient in such a way that counsel's errors were so serious that the attorney was "not functioning as the counsel guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687; Neufville v. State, 13 A.3d 607, 610 (R.I. 2011). Essentially, this prong of the Strickland analysis evaluates whether counsel's performance "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." 466 U.S. at 688. However, the Sixth Amendment standard is '"very forgiving, "' United States v. Theodore, 468 F.3d 52, 57 (1st Cir. 2006) (quoting Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 981 (9th Cir. 2000)), and there is a strong presumption that counsel performed competently. Gonder v. State, 935 A.2d 85, 86 (R.I. 2007). "As the Strickland Court cautioned, a reviewing court should strive 'to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight.'" Clark v. Ellerthorpe, 552 A.2d 1186, 1189 (R.I. 1989) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). Accordingly, an attorney's choice in trial tactics that appear imprudent "only in hindsight, does not constitute constitutionally-deficient representation under the reasonably competent assistance standard." United States v. Bosch, 584 F.2d 1113, 1121 (1st Cir. 1978). '"[T]actical decisions by trial counsel, even if ill-advised, do not by themselves constitute ineffective assistance of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.