Lawyer Can’t Concede Guilt When Client Claims Innocence

Lawyers have to listen to their customers, especially when it comes to pleading guilty.

That is basically what the U.S. Supreme Court stated in State of Louisiana v. McCoy. In that triple-murder situation, Robert McCoy told his lawyer he didn’t take action.

His attorney chose another plan , nevertheless, and McCoy wound up on death row. Lucky for him though, with all the recent Supreme Court decision in his favor, he gets a new trial, but that’s only because he is still alive.

‘Difficult Position’

With decided understatement, the Supreme Court said attorney Larry English was”placed in a challenging position.”

“He had an undercover customer and faced a strong government instance,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote. “He reasonably thought the goal of his representation ought to be avoidance of the death penalty.”

McCoy, of course, was in a more difficult situation. He had been accused of murdering his mother-in-law, stepfather and boy.

“I didn’t murder my family,” he testified at trial. In final argument, however, his lawyer said McCoy was guilty of second-degree murder due to mental deficiencies.

‘Concession of Guilt’

McCoy asked the trial judge for a new lawyer, but it was too late. Justice Ginsburg, joined by five of her colleagues, said the”concession of guilt should have been off the desk” once McCoy hauled his nod to the courtroom.

They stated the majority missed the big image.

“The Court dismisses the question actually presented by the case before us and instead decides this case on the basis of a recently discovered constitutional right that’s not implicated by what actually occurred at petitioner’s trial,” Alito wrote.

To put it differently, McCoy was guilty.