Court rips lawyer, overturns mom’s conviction
Detroit — In a searing ruling, the state appeals court overturned the convictions of a Detroit woman who was charged in her daughter’s death, calling her attorney’s defense theory “scientifically bankrupt.”
The Michigan Court of Appeals said Jasmine Gordon’s constitutional rights were violated because of the poor work of her trial lawyer, John McWilliams.
“His ‘strategy’ actually amounted to no defense at all,” the three-judge panel said Thursday in a unanimous decision to toss Gordon’s convictions on child abuse and involuntary manslaughter charges.
Investigators said Gordon’s 3-year-old daughter, Jamila, died from pneumonia related to an infection and a lacerated pancreas in 2014. Prosecutors accused Gordon of failing to prevent the child from being abused by a boyfriend, who was acquitted of child abuse but convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
McWilliams told jurors the child died of natural causes from a brain defect. He promised jurors that an expert would back him up but then he failed to present an expert.
“McWilliams knew his theory was scientifically bankrupt before he decided to employ it, but he rested Gordon’s defense on it nonetheless,” the court said.
The court noted that a forensic pathologist, Dr. L.J. Dragovic, was prepared to rebut allegations of child abuse and testify that Jamila’s pancreas injury could have been accidental. But McWilliams said he didn’t use Dragovic partly because he feared a stormy exchange between the doctor and the prosecutor due to unrelated issues.
“By rejecting Dr. Dragovic’s testimony and proceeding to defend Gordon with his made-up, evidence-free theory, McWilliams fought a duel with an unloaded gun, and with the bullets in his pocket,” the appeals court said.
When told about the decision Friday, McWilliams replied: “Wow — that’s embarrassing.”
“Nobody likes to get raked over the coals and be found ineffective,” he told the Associated Press. “I did my best.”
Gordon has had a new attorney throughout the appeals process.
Prosecutors said they will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.