State v. Phillips, 365 N.C. 103 (Jun. 16, 2011)

The trial court did not err by failing to inquire into defense counsel’s alleged conflict of interest and by failing to obtain a waiver from the defendant of the right to conflict-free counsel. According to the defendant, the conflict arose when it became apparent that counsel might have to testify as a witness. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that his claim should be assessed under the conflict of interest ineffective assistance of counsel standard rather than the standard two-prong Strickland analysis. It noted that the conflict of interest standard generally applies to conflicts that arise from multiple or successive representation and it deferred to defense counsel’s conclusion that no conflict existed in the case at hand. Applying Strickland, the court rejected the defendant’s claim, concluding that even if counsel’s conduct fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, no prejudice occurred.