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Supreme Court Allows Death Row Inmate with Defiant Lawyer to Get Retrial
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Summary: The Supreme Court will allow a death row inmate to receive a retrial because his defense attorney defied his wishes. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that criminal attorneys were not allowed to disobey client wishes, even if the defiance was in the clients’ best wishes, according to Fox News. The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Louisiana death row inmate Robert McCoy who disagreed with the way his lawyer defended him in 2008.

  
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McCoy was on trial for the murder of his estranged wife’ son, mother, and stepfather; and his attorney Larry English said that he believed the evidence against McCoy was so great that the best defense was to take a plea. McCoy wanted to fight his case, but English insisted on doing things his way, believing that if he pled guilty the court would show mercy and not sentence McCoy to death.

The evidence against McCoy included a weapon found in his car that matched the cartridge casings found at the murder scene. McCoy wanted his defense to be that he was innocent and framed by a drug trafficker, but English had chosen to argue that McCoy had no intention to kill and that he had murdered his family because of his poor mental state. Intent is required for the death penalty in Louisiana, and English believed this defense would spare his client’s life.

However, English’ plan backfired, and McCoy was given the death sentence anyway. For over a decade, McCoy has been fighting back, stating that his lawyer did not properly act on his behalf, and on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed in a ruling 6-3.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that McCoy must be allowed a new trial because of English’s misconduct.

“The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty,” Ginsburg wrote.



Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch were the dissenting opinion, and Alito said that English had admitted to McCoy’s killing but had not admitted to first-degree murder. Alito, who wrote the opinion, added that the evidence that McCoy had killed his relatives was strong and that if McCoy was retried, it was unclear what the outcome of that case would be.

“English strenuously argued that petitioner was not guilty of first-degree murder because he lacked the intent required for the offense,” Alito wrote. “So the Court’s newly discovered fundamental right simply does not apply to the real facts of this case.”

What do you think of the Supreme Court’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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