Okonkwo v. Texas (Original)Annotate this Case
According to appellant Chidiebele Gabriel Okonkwo, he received $60,000 dollars in the mail from a man in Nigeria whom he had never met, who told appellant that he needed assistance in making purchases in the United States. Appellant claimed that he believed the money was authentic currency. He took the money to three different locations with the intent of obtaining money orders. After he successfully obtained two money orders, he was arrested when a clerk who was suspicious about the authenticity of the money called the police. The police confirmed that the money had been forged. At trial, the sole issue was whether appellant knew that the money was forged. The State petitioned the Supreme Court for discretionary review to ask whether appellant's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request a jury instruction on the defense of mistake of fact. Answering in the affirmative, the court of appeals reversed appellant's conviction for forgery of money. On appeal, the State raised two issues: (1) that the court of appeals erroneously used a subjective standard to assess whether defense counsel was ineffective; and (2) under an objective standard, counsel could not be held ineffective for failing to request a mistake-of-fact instruction because the State had to prove that appellant knew the money was forged as an element of its case. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State on its first challenge and agreed on its second. "The court of appeals did properly apply an objective standard, although it erred by failing to weigh the evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Furthermore, the court of appeals erred by determining that counsel was objectively ineffective in light of the record in this case, which shows that it was an inconsistent, alternative theory asserted by appellant's trial counsel, and its inclusion may have lessened the State's burden of proof. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the court of appeals."