NJC Capital Cases Resources
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The 8th Amendment -
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Right to Counsel
The 6th Amendment -
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The 6th Amendment -
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Supremacy Clause
 
 

Capital Punishment Issues in the U.S. Supreme Court

IV.  Right to Counsel (6th Amendment)

    Right to Counsel (6th Amendment) – e.g., Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374 (2005) [FindLaw] [Lexis], holding that a defense attorney in a capital case did not satisfy the 6th Amendment’s requirement of “effective assistance of counsel” when the defense attorney did not even examine the prosecutor’s file or otherwise make reasonable efforts to uncover the facts related to the aggravating circumstances that would be offered by the prosecutor.  See also Florida v. Nixon, 543 U.S. 175 (2004) [FindLaw] [Lexis], holding that a defense attorney in a capital case did not render “ineffective assistance of counsel” in violation of the 6th Amendment by entering a guilty plea without the express consent of the defendant; Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510 (2003) [FindLaw] [Lexis], holding that a defense attorney’s failure to investigate possible mitigating circumstances constituted “ineffective assistance of counsel” in violation of the 6th Amendment.

    Pending –The U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Spisak, 08-724, will review the Sixth Circuit’s finding on habeas that defense counsel’s statements during his closing at sentencing that it raised a presumption of ineffectiveness under U.S. v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984). [FindLaw].

    Also Pending –The U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Spisak, 08-724, will review the Sixth Circuit’s finding on habeas that defense counsel’s statements during his closing at sentencing that it raised a presumption of ineffectiveness under U.S. v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984). [FindLaw].

    In Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465 (2007) [FindLaw], the U.S. Supreme Court held that denial of an evidentiary hearing on ineffective assistance was not so “unreasonable” as to warrant federal habeas relief. In Landrigan, the defendant had opposed presentation of mitigating evidence but the lawyer had proffered to trial judge what he would have presented as mitigation (the trial judge was also the sentencer in the case).  The unique fact pattern (including that the judge who was the sentencer heard what the mitigation would be) makes it difficult to extrapolate for future cases what defense counsel’s obligation is to independently develop and present mitigation where the defendant is not cooperating.

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