State v. L.A., unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-4279-07T4 (May 24, 2010) – Denial of PCR reversed, case remanded for evidentiary hearing. “We concur that a remand is necessary to afford defendant the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing at which his wife will be able to testify, and the PCR judge will be able to assess her credibility, in order to make an informed decision as to whether trial counsel’s failure to prepare and call her as a witness did in fact constitute ineffective assistance of counsel….
Here, the PCR judge found that defendant had satisfied the first prong of the Strickland test, namely that counsel was ‘deficient’ in failing to call defendant’s wife as a witness because her testimony ‘would have been helpful to put the victim’s credibility in issue….’ Notwithstanding this finding, the judge concluded that counsel’s deficient performance did not prejudice defendant. However, as noted, in addressing this second prong, the PCR judge focused on allegations other than counsel’s failure to call defendant’s wife as a witness…. We are satisfied that the PCR judge erred in failing to find that defendant had satisfied the second prong of the test for establishing a prima facie claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. This error, in turn, led to the improper denial of an evidentiary hearing.”