Edmund J. Phillips Jr., Newton, attorney for appellant.
Office of the Attorney General by Laura Hogan Tedder, attorney for appellee.
Before LEE, C.J., MAXWELL and FAIR, JJ.
¶ 1. Convicted of felony child abuse, Lakeisha Robinson claims two errors require reversal. The first alleged error— that the trial judge did not instruct the jury on her defense theory of insanity— is simply incorrect. To the contrary, the record shows the trial judge did in fact give two instructions on insanity as a defense; plus he modified the form-of-the-verdict instruction to include an option for the jury
to find her not guilty by reason of insanity. The reason the judge gave the State's insanity instructions, and not Robinson's own insanity instruction, was because her counsel withdrew it.
¶ 2. And the second alleged error— that the State's psychological testimony was inadmissible— is procedurally barred, since she made no objection at trial. Because she waived her appellate challenge to this testimony, she frames the issue as one of ineffective assistance of counsel— that her attorney was constitutionally deficient for not objecting to portions of expert testimony and that the deficiency prejudiced her defense. But decisions whether to object or not are generally deemed trial strategy. So they do not typically support ineffective-assistance claims. This is especially so on direct appeal, where no record has been developed to evaluate counsel's overall performance.
¶ 3. Because Robinson has not shown reversible error, we affirm.
¶ 4. Medical experts testified that Robinson's newborn son had suffered permanent brain injury. He had also endured multiple fractures to his extremities, caused by his small arms and legs being yanked and twisted. Because there was strong evidence Robinson had inflicted the injuries, her defense theory focused on her postpartum mental state and her history of depression.
¶ 5. Before trial, the circuit judge conducted a competency hearing in compliance with Rule 9.06 of the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court. At this hearing, Dr. Mark Webb, who had conducted the court-ordered mental evaluation, testified that Robinson was competent to stand trial. Deborah Meek, who had been treating Robinson for depression at the time the crime occurred, and James Patrick, Robinson's long-term boyfriend and father of the abused infant, also testified. After considering the various testimony, the trial judge determined Robinson was competent to stand trial.
¶ 6. At trial, Dr. Webb testified that Robinson knew the difference between right and wrong when she abused her son and that her postpartum depression was not so severe as to make her insane. But Patrick disagreed and testified that, based on his observation of Robinson at the time, he did not believe Robinson knew her actions were wrong.
¶ 7. The jury was instructed on insanity as a defense and had the option of finding Robinson guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity. After deliberating, the jury found Robinson guilty of felony child abuse. The ...