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Ineffective Assistance
Of Counsel
By: Betty Mydland, 
Pro se Specialists


We present this for informational purposes only.
We are NOT attorneys nor experts in the law.

One should be aware that there are never any EASY answers to legal questions.   And for the most part, each case must be evaluated on its own merits.  In any case, a passionate, seasoned litigator is always your best avenue of recourse.

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Ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal violates the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. In analyzing an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the overriding concern is to determine whether counsel's conduct so undermined the functioning of the adversary process that the trial cannot be relied upon as having produced a just result. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984).

First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction or death sentence resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable. Id. at 687. Review of counsel's performance is highly deferential, and courts must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Id. at 689.

Actual or constructive denial of assistance of counsel altogether is legally presumed to result in prejudice. So are various kinds of state interference with counsel's assistance.' 466 U.S. at 692 (citing U.S. v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 659, n.25 (1983). In Cronic, the Court described the type of situation from which prejudice is presumed. When counsel is totally absent, is prevented from assisting the accused at a critical stage of the proceeding, or when counsel entirely fails to subject the prosecution's case to meaningful adversarial testing, courts will presume prejudice. Cronic, 466 U.S. at 659 & n.25.

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Social Security:
Money For Nothing?
SOURCE: Inside Journal July/Aug 1999
By: Betty Mydland, 
Pro se Specialists


We present this for informational purposes only.
We are NOT attorneys nor experts in the law.

One should be aware that there are never any EASY answers to legal questions.   And for the most part, each case must be evaluated on its own merits.  In any case, a passionate, seasoned litigator is always your best avenue of recourse.

Back to Legal FAQs

Good rumors dies hard. One of the best continues to prey on inmates looking for a fresh financial start. Perhaps you've heard it. One inmate recently reported that he was told of a clause in the Social Security Administration that classifies ex-cons as "disabled" upon release. As such they could receive monthly checks in excess of $300 plus money to purchase a car.

So let's get the story straight.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), one program of the Social Security Administration, is for people who are disabled, have limited income, or who are 65 or older. Serving time in prison does not qualify anyone as "disabled". To be considered disabled, a person must have a physical or mental condition that prevents him/her form doing any substantial work. This condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months. Depression, anxiety, stress from prison, etc., are not considered enough reason to prevent a person from working. Even if you meet these conditions, P.L. 96-473 requires suspension of Social Security benefits to disabled inmates when they become confined to a correctional facility for conviction of a felony. Statute 10105.105 forbids payment of any benefits to any prisoner who becomes disabled while in prison or who sustains a disability during the commission of felony after October 19, 1980.

No matter how much you have paid into Social Security, no inmate can receive benefits. Social Security is a program that pays benefits after you retire, become disabled, or die. The benefits that you receive after you qualify (usually your 65th birthday) depend on how long you have worked and paid into the Social Security Program.

If you were receiving benefits before your incarceration, they were automatically cut off when you entered the prison system. By law, benefits cannot be reinstated until you have been out of prison for at lease a month. Upon release, you can receive up to $200 in emergency benefits. This is an advance against your first regular check. If your parole requires you to live in a half-way house (still considered confinement) you cannot receive benefits till you are released.

If you feel that you could get SSI, you can apply for it only 30 days before your release.

Remember this: 30 DAYS.

If you apply before the 30 days, the Social Security Administration will deny your claims because you are still an inmate. Remember, no Social Security benefits are payable to inmates during incarceration.

Is there any way an inmate can receive SSA benefits upon release? Yes. [W]e spoke with the Office of Public Information, the Office of Litigation, and the Press Office. However, the benefits are for only a narrow group of folks. Frank Battistelli, an official spokesperson, was quite candid. Released prisoners who meet all of the following criteria may receive Social Security benefits:

1.  The inmate is disabled according to Social Security's definition of disability. Serving time in prison is not enough reason to claim that you have an emotional disability. By definition, disabled means that the inmate is unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity." This means that:

   a. The inmate is unable to work because of a physical or mental disability which has lasted for longer than 12 months, or is expected to result in death.
   b. His/her disability is expected to result in death.
   c. He/she is incapable of doing his/her previous work or any other substantial gainful employment, that exists in the national company.

2.  The sentencing court or a subsequent court specifically approves, for that individual, a rehabilitation program.

3.  Social Security must have a reasonable explanation that the inmate will have gainful employment upon release. [Please note that just because a court approves the rehabilitation program does not mean that the SSA will do so. Your work experience, skills that are relevant to the national economy, and other factors are weighed by Social Security.]

4.  The prisoner must be close enough to release that once he/she is released gainful employment can be obtained within a reasonable period of time. The definition of reasonable rests solely in the hands of the Social Security Administration.

The following guidelines apply to all inmates:
If you are statutorily blind, contact Social Security. Different rules apply. If for some reason Social Security makes a mistake and does not stop your disability payments upon incarceration, you must repay the money when the error is discovered. If Social Security thinks that this was not an accident, but you knowingly made an attempt to defraud Social Security, your case will be referred to the Office Of Inspector General, who will decide whether your case should be prosecuted.

If you have any questions, call this toll free number: 1-800-772-1213. Have your home zip code ready, because your call will be transferred to the Social Security office nearest you.

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Some Reasons for Appeal
From Criminal Conviction

By: Betty Mydland, 

Pro se Specialists


We present this for informational purposes only.
We are NOT attorneys nor experts in the law.

One should be aware that there are never any EASY answers to legal questions.   And for the most part, each case must be evaluated on its own merits.  In any case, a passionate, seasoned litigator is always your best avenue of recourse.

Back to Legal FAQs

Some issues that qualify for an appeal.


1. Was bond set to high for the charge?
2. Were miranda rights read to you before you were questioned?
3. Were you sober when:  A. questioned?  B. read your rights?  C. you gave a statement?
4. You have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
5. Competent council, i.e., was your attorney familiar with cases similar to yours?
6. Was there too much publicity for you to get a fair trial?
7. Were you coerced into making a statement?
8. Were any witnesses promised immunity or lesser charge in exchange for their testimony against you?


1. Disparity of sentencing fior like crimes.
2. Disparity of charges filed, i.e., attempted murder instead of illegal discharge of a weapon.
3. Neglect instead of abuse.
4. Aggravating and Consecutive - The court must give supporting evidence as to why they gave you both.
5. Co-defendant favoritism


1. Multiple charges for same offense.
2. If you were aqquited of the same charge, they cannot ever try you again for the same charge.
3. If charges were dropped at any point, they could conceiveable come back and refile again at a later date but they seldom do.


1. Never tried a case like yours.
2. He/she is a corporate lawyer rather than criminal.
3. He/she was drinking at any point during the proceedings.
4. He/she was not prepared well enough.


TRIAL COURT - if illegally obtained evidence is presented in court after your attorney objects, and the judge allows it anyway. Or if the witnesses are not separated and are allowed to hear eachother's testimony.

YOUR ATTORNEY - generally same as for incompentence, but all if he is seen talking with a juror or if he is friends with a juror or if he is overheard discussing your case with anyone or if he takes money from you and never talks to you about your case or if he allows anything to take place without the court reporter being present or if the court forgets to swear anyone in and your attorney does not raise an objection or if he failes to explain alternatives to you.

PROSECUTOR - if he knows any of the jurors, makes any promises in exchange for their testimony against you, or discusses your case or anything about you with anyone outside the court, or if he brings up anything about your that is irrelevant to to this particular case.

JURY - if they discuss with family or friends or if they discuss the case among themselves outside of the jury deliberation room, i.e., lunch, dinner, if they read anything about the case in the newspaper or see the T.V. news about your case or if they coerce another juror to make a decison.

MEDIA - if they misconstrue the facts, or if they print totally irrelevant things about you, or anything that can't be proved without saying "allegedly".

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The author, Betty Mydland, received her Master's Degree in Theology from Gateway Christian College in 1974, and received an Associate’s Degree in Database Management and Research from Ivy Tech in 1992. In 1998 she earned a certification as a paralegal.

For 21 months she was a law clerk and lay advocate at the Rockville Correctional Facility for Women in Indiana, and had a win rate of 48%. The head of the institution said that "Ms. Mydland was the first to obtain that percentage in the 30 years she had been there."

Most recently Ms. Mydland have started a non-profit organization called Ex-Offender Community Employment League. Their mission is to provide support, help secure employment, and ease the reintegration process of those being released from incarceration.

In addition, she also started a for-profit business called Pro se Specialists to provide legal document preparation for those wanting to represent themselves in court, but need legal help with document preparation.

Ms. Mydland is also teaching a Life Skills class to those recently released or placed on probation at the Elkhart County Probation Department.

You can reach Betty Mydland HERE

The opinions expressed in this FAQs are those of the author.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of PrisonerLife.com, it's owners, employees, volunteers, or advertisers. PrisonerLife.com is NOT the publisher of such information, but merely provides the forum in which the author may express their opinion.  The truthfulness or accuracy of any statement has NOT been investigated nor verified by PrisonerLife.com.

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