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Name: Schell v. Witek
Case #: 97-56197
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 07/11/2000
Subsequent History: None

Where Schell’s fingerprint inside a screen-protected window was the only evidence connecting him to the burglary, the evidence was sufficient to support Schell’s burglary conviction. Here it was reasonable for the jury to have inferred that Schell left his fingerprint there during the commission of the burglary. Moreover, the evidence in the record was irreconcilable with the assertion that Schell might have innocently touched the inside of the window on some previous occasion. Schell did not knowingly and intelligently waive his motion for the appointment of new counsel under People v. Marsden (1970) 2 Cal.3d 118 where he was not present when his attorney made the motion, and where his attorney represented to him that the motion was denied. The allegations in Schell’s habeas petition were tantamount to his attorney telling him that she would neither investigate his case nor defend him unless he pleaded guilty. Schell was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claims of a toxic conflict with his lawyer. The matter was remanded to determine the nature and extent of the conflict between Schell and his attorney, and whether that conflict deprived Schell of the representation to which he was entitled by the Sixth Amendment. If so, Schell’s trial shall be assumed to have been unfair. If not, a prejudice showing will be required. The district court was also ordered to include the closely related issue of whether Schell’s trial attorney acted competently with regards to the fingerprint evidence, and if not, whether the deficiencies prejudiced Schell’s trial.