Court Cases By Federal

Lambert v. Blodgett
248 F. Supp. 2d 988 (E.D. Wa. 2003)

Lambert, a juvenile, was charged with murder and his case was transferred to adult court. He pled guilty and received a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole, the same sentence he would have received if he had gone to trial.

Lambert brought this habeas corpus action, seeking to overturn his guilty plea and conviction on the ground that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel. The district court concluded that Lambert had not received effective representation, and set aside his plea and conviction.

One area of ineffective representation concerned a psychological evaluation of Lambert. The attorney retained a psychologist to conduct an evaluation; the psychologist concluded that Lambert was extremely dangerous and had no mental problems.

"[The psychologist] was not given sufficient information by [the attorney] from which to perform a meaningful evaluation as to some of the facts related to Mr. Lambert's background. . . . The insufficient information precluded [the psychologist] and [the attorney] from investigating the possibility that Mr. Lambert suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome; such investigation may have supported a diminished capacity defense or at a minimum would have informed defense counsel of the need to explain in greater detail the legal issues to Mr. Lambert."

248 F. Supp. at 1011. This decision illustrates that an attorney who does consult a psychologist or other expert may still be guilty of ineffective assistance if the attorney fails to provide the expert with needed information. It also recognizes that FAS may provide the basis for a diminished capacity defense.