Arthur Hailey was stopped for failing to signal when making a turn. When police discovered that Hailey did not have his driver’s license and had outstanding arrest warrants, they arrested him and impounded the Dodge Intrepid that he was driving. Four days later, in response to an anonymous tip, police arrested eight people, including Hailey, for possessing three carjacked vehicles. Hailey had the keys to a stolen vehicle in his possession. On learning that Hailey’s car was impounded, the arresting officer ordered an inventory of the vehicle; the inventory turned up firearms and stolen car parts. Two carjacking victims identified Hailey as one of the people who stole their vehicles.
Hailey was charged in three separate cases with multiple charges relating to the carjackings and robberies. The cases were consolidated and Hailey was tried before a jury; he denied taking part in the crimes. The jury acquitted Hailey of some charges, but convicted him of carjacking, armed robbery, two counts of receiving and concealing stolen vehicles, receiving and concealing a stolen weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, and felony-firearm.
Hailey filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that his lawyer was ineffective because she had not contacted two witnesses, Hailey’s brother and a friend. Hailey claimed that they committed one of the carjackings he had been convicted of; at the motion hearing, both men appeared and admitted their guilt. Hailey also argued that his attorney should have filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his car during the inventory, which Hailey contended was an illegal search. But the trial court disagreed and denied Hailey’s motion. The trial court rejected the two witnesses’ testimony, noting that they had nothing to lose by admitting to the carjacking since both were already serving lengthy prison sentences. Moreover, Jerome Hailey denied that he had written a letter confessing to the carjacking. For these and other reasons, the trial court concluded that Hailey was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel.
Hailey appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed in a split unpublished per curiam opinion. “[E]ffective assistance of counsel is presumed, and defendant bears a heavy burden of proving otherwise,” the majority noted. All three judges agreed that Hailey’s attorney was not ineffective for failing to move to suppress the evidence found in Hailey’s impounded car. A majority also rejected Hailey’s claim that his attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; while the attorney admitted that she did not contact the two men, she based that decision on “her professional opinion [that] they never would have confessed at defendant’s trial,” the majority said. Hailey had also failed to show that there was a reasonable probability that there would have been a different outcome at trial if his trial counsel had contacted his brother and cousin, the majority said. The dissenting judge would have held that the attorney’s failure to properly investigate Hailey’s claim that the other two men committed the carjacking fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and prejudiced Hailey’s trial. He would have reversed the trial court and granted Hailey a new trial. Hailey appeals.