Missouri v. Frye

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Post-Conviction Relief
  • Date Filed: March 21, 2012
  • Case #: 10-444
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, and was joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan JJ. Scalia, J., filed a dissent, in which Roberts, C.J., and Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The right to effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment extends to the consideration of plea offers that lapse because counsel did not inform the defendant of the plea.

After charging Respondent with a class D felony, the prosecutor offered two separate plea bargains, neither of which was passed on to Respondent. Respondent subsequently plead guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. Respondent filed for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The state court denied the petition, but the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed based on Strickland v. Washington.

The Supreme Court held that defense counsel have a duty to inform their clients of formal plea offers which may be favorable to their clients, and that by failing to do this, Respondent’s counsel violated the first prong of the Strickland test. The Court further held that under the second prong of Strickland a defendant alleging prejudice from ineffective counsel due to a lapsed plea bargain must show (1) a reasonable probability that he would have accepted the plea if counsel had been effective, (2) a reasonable probability that the plea would have been entered without the prosecution cancelling it, and (3) a reasonable probability that the end result would have been more favorable to the defendant.

The Supreme Court stated that the Missouri Court of Appeals correctly held that Respondent had ineffective assistance of counsel, but did not apply the correct standard when deciding that the ineffective counsel was prejudicial to the Respondent. Consequently the Court vacated and remanded.

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