Despite claims of ineffective counsel, court affirms conviction on murder case

By Gabriel Neves | Nov 16, 2018

MT. VERNON -- The first-degree murder conviction of a St. Clair County man was affirmed by the court, despite claims of ineffective legal counseling.

State Justice Melissa Chapman, on the bench of the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court, issued an eight-page ruling on Oct. 9, affirming the St. Clair County Circuit Court decision in the murder case of Garfield Fenton.

Fenton was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder, and to ten years for attempted murder. 

In his appeal, Fenton argued that his counsel was ineffective for agreeing with trial delays on behalf of the state. The trials delays were attributed to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab delayed in completing evidence analysis.

The appellant stated that those delays, per the ruling, "tolled his right to a speedy trial."

After the appellate court declined to hear his claims based on insufficient evidence, Fenton appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which also denied the appeal and instructed the court of appeals to vacate the previous ruling and reconsider the case.

Fenton was convicted on Dec. 13, 2013, of murdering Le'Nae Cole and of stabbing Xzavion O'Neal, while entering her house. After being stabbed, O'Neal "sustained numerous stab wounds, escaped from the house, and survived," according to court documents.

In her ruling, Justice Chapman dismissed Fenton's speedy trial violation arguments, stating that those were "a novel theory unsupported by the law," based on "a faulty legal premise which amounts to a logical fallacy."

She also considered the fact that Fenton's defense did not object to the continuances from the state.

"Because defendant did not object to any trial delays, those delays are considered “agreed to” delays and attributable to defendant. Because there is no legal basis for defendant’s claim of a speedy-trial violation, defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must fail," Chapman said.

Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court Case number 5-14-0052

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