Supreme Court hears arguments on ineffective assistance of counsel

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Monday in two cases regarding ineffective assistance of counsel [Cornell LII backgrounder]. In both cases [JURIST report], the court is being asked to determine how poor legal advice from attorneys to clients regarding plea bargaining should impact subsequent guilty verdicts. In Lafler v. Cooper [transcript, PDF], respondent Anthony Cooper was convicted of assault with intent to murder for shooting a woman in her thigh and buttocks after his attorney advised him to not take a plea offer in the belief that there could be no finding of the requisite intent. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the attorney's advice was unconstitutional as it amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. One of the points argued by the state was "that when asserting an ineffective assistance claim, a defendant must show deprivation of a substantive or procedural right, and this Court has already held that a defendant has no right to a plea bargain."

In Missouri v. Frye [transcript, PDF], respondent Galin Frye was offered two deals by prosecutors during proceedings for driving with a revoked license, but Frye's attorney never informed his client about the offers and Frye pleaded guilty. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the attorney's failure to inform his client about the plea offers amounted to unconstitutional ineffective assistance of counsel. Counsel for the state argued that "Mr. Frye has failed to show prejudice, and therefore his guilty plea remains voluntary, intelligent, and final." Counsel for the US government argued on behalf of petitioners in both cases.

 

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