WILLMAR — Less than 13 weeks after being released from civil commitment for incompetency, Esteban Trevino was arrested in Kandiyohi County for what would become his sixth conviction for driving while intoxicated.
He pleaded guilty in district court to a felony DWI, and as part of a plea agreement, received a “bottom of the box” sentence on Jan. 24, 2017, to 65 months in prison.
Trevino, 44, currently incarcerated in Stillwater, is entitled to a new trial on that charge. In a ruling issued Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed and remanded his conviction. It found that his court-appointed attorney’s representation fell below an "objective standard of reasonableness." She did “nothing” in respect to her client’s mental health issues and failed to seek a Rule 20 competency hearing in his case. Had there been a competency hearing, there was a reasonable probability that the outcome of his case would have been different, according to the Court decision.
Trevino initially filed a petition to withdraw his guilty plea after his sixth DWI conviction on the argument that he had received ineffective assistance.
In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals pointed to a “combination” of factors that the attorney did not properly address in its decision.
It pointed out that the attorney knew of Trevino’s recent commitment for incompetency. She had been made aware of Trevino’s significant mental health issues, including a diagnosis for schizophrenia, by a probation officer. The attorney declined the officer’s offer to provide her with his mental health records.
In the plea petition for her client, the attorney erroneously checked a box that indicated Trevino had “not talked with or been treated by a psychiatrist or other person for a nervous or mental condition.”
On the day of his plea hearing, Trevino told his attorney that there was a “chip planted in his brain and that law enforcement knew where he would be.” Despite this, the attorney testified in a post conviction hearing that she “did not feel his delusions impacted his ability to understand that he was facing criminal charges, what his options were, or the roles of the parties involved.”
All of these factors, along with the attorney’s decision not to do so much as a cursory investigation of Trevino’s competency, and her decision to decline the probation officer’s offer “to hand-deliver everything she would need” to investigate his competency led the court to its conclusion, according to the opinion it filed.
Trevino has an extensive criminal record for traffic and drunk driving convictions, including a criminal vehicular injury conviction for an April 29, 2001, collision in Willmar in which three people were injured.