The right to counsel at sentencing is violated when a defendant is represented only by “stand-in” counsel who is unfamiliar with the case, the Louisiana First Circuit held in State of Louisiana v. Eddie Powell, 2013 KA 1153, (La. App. 1 Cir. 2/18/2014). The facts demonstrate that because Powell’s attorney was out of town when the defendant appeared for sentencing, the trial court asked an attorney present in court to “stand-in” with Powell for sentencing.
On appeal, the defendant argued he was denied the right to, and assistance of, counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Writing for the First Circuit, Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple found no record evidence “stand-in” counsel conferred with the defendant prior to sentencing and made no mitigation arguments on behalf of Powell, who received a 30-year sentence at hard labor for first-degree robbery. According to Judge Whipple, the defendant’s awareness that he had “stand-in” counsel and the fact that the defendant received less than the presentence investigation report recommended maximum 40-year sentence did not overcome the the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to adequate representation