Supreme Court rules for defendant in capital murder plea case

Ian Jeffrey

Council Hall
Mar 2013
76,707
45,945
Vulcan, down the street from Darth Vader
#1
Supreme Court rules for defendant in capital murder plea case

On Monday, a divided Supreme Court said a court in a Louisiana murder case couldn’t accept a lawyer’s admission of his own client’s guilt over his client’s objections.

In McCoy v. Louisiana, the Court considered a basic question about the proper role of attorneys in murder cases. Robert McCoy originally filed his own appeal directly to the Supreme Court about two questions related to his conviction on three murder charges. McCoy was sentenced to death in the case.

McCoy was accused of killing three people in 2008 in a dispute with his then-wife and he was arrested after fleeing to Idaho. McCoy clashed with public defenders, briefly represented himself, and then hired an attorney, Larry English, to argue his case.

The client and his attorney disagreed about McCoy’s defense strategy, and English told the court he had doubts about McCoy’s competency due to “severe mental and emotional issues. During trial, English introduced a defense that conceded McCoy’s role in the killings as a tactic to avoid the death penalty, by stressing McCoy’s mental condition. Under testimony, McCoy insisted he wasn’t guilty and he was the victim of a conspiracy. The jury found McCoy guilty of three first-degree murder counts. The jury then recommended the death penalty.

In the 6-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the trial court should not have accepted English’s concession of guilt for his client.

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A lawyer should know better than to make certain decisions, despite having the general power to determine strategy. Three basic things the defendant always retains the right to do: whether to plead or go to trial; whether to go to trial in front of a jury or the court; and whether to testify.
 
Likes: 2 people
Jun 2010
7,502
1,550
Ohio
#3
Supreme Court rules for defendant in capital murder plea case

On Monday, a divided Supreme Court said a court in a Louisiana murder case couldn’t accept a lawyer’s admission of his own client’s guilt over his client’s objections.

In McCoy v. Louisiana, the Court considered a basic question about the proper role of attorneys in murder cases. Robert McCoy originally filed his own appeal directly to the Supreme Court about two questions related to his conviction on three murder charges. McCoy was sentenced to death in the case.

McCoy was accused of killing three people in 2008 in a dispute with his then-wife and he was arrested after fleeing to Idaho. McCoy clashed with public defenders, briefly represented himself, and then hired an attorney, Larry English, to argue his case.

The client and his attorney disagreed about McCoy’s defense strategy, and English told the court he had doubts about McCoy’s competency due to “severe mental and emotional issues. During trial, English introduced a defense that conceded McCoy’s role in the killings as a tactic to avoid the death penalty, by stressing McCoy’s mental condition. Under testimony, McCoy insisted he wasn’t guilty and he was the victim of a conspiracy. The jury found McCoy guilty of three first-degree murder counts. The jury then recommended the death penalty.

In the 6-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the trial court should not have accepted English’s concession of guilt for his client.

[hr][/hr]
A lawyer should know better than to make certain decisions, despite having the general power to determine strategy. Three basic things the defendant always retains the right to do: whether to plead or go to trial; whether to go to trial in front of a jury or the court; and whether to testify.
So essentially the attorney decided to ignore the clients wishes and defend the client with a specific strategy wish the client objected to.

It makes sense that the court would rule in favor of the defendant on that issue.

The question now becomes will the state try the defendant again and allow him to defend himself with a conspiracy tale. I can;t really see that working so if the state moves ahead with another trial it seems the defendant will be sunk anyways.
 
Likes: 2 people

Ian Jeffrey

Council Hall
Mar 2013
76,707
45,945
Vulcan, down the street from Darth Vader
#4
Yes, a retrial would be the next step, or so the article represents Justice Ginsburg's opinion to state:

“The trial court’s allowance of English’s admission of McCoy’s guilt despite McCoy’s insistent objections was incompatible with the Sixth Amendment. Because the error was structural, a new trial is the required corrective,” Ginsburg said.
 
Likes: 1 person
Jun 2014
61,620
35,968
Cleveland, Ohio
#5
Assuming this defendant appears to be genuinely, severely mentally ill, he presents a real challenge to his defense lawyer. People like Aileen Wornous, Ted Kazinsky, Jeffrey Dalmer, etc. have all rejected their lawyer's advice to raise the insanity defense.

But how can a mentally ill defendant make a knowing, informed, voluntary decision to reject that defense?

I think SCOTUS decided this case correctly, but this is not a simple question. Not IMO, anyway.