McCoy v. Louisiana

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: September 28, 2017
  • Case #: 16-8255
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 218 So.3d 535
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether defense counsel's decision to concede guilt in a capital case, over the defendant’s express objection, violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights and Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process.

Petitioner was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Petitioner's family hired private counsel, who was not certified for capital defense cases. Petitioner maintained his innocence and refused to negotiate a plea even though defense counsel tried to convince him otherwise. The state trial court denied Petitioner's request to discharge defense counsel two days before trial. At trial, defense counsel conceded Petitioner's guilt a number of times, even though his client expressly objected; at one point stating to the jury, "I’m telling you, [Petitioner] committed these crimes."  Petitioner was sentenced to death after the jury found him guilty as charged. The trial court denied multiple motions for new trial. Relying on Florida v. Nixon, 543 U.S. 175 (2004), the Louisiana Supreme Court found concession of guilt in an effort to avoid the death penalty a permissible course of representation, because it is not an express waiver of the state's burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and is strategic in nature. Because the concession may be reasonable and strategic, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that Petitioner's assistance of counsel was effective under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Petitioner argues that Nixon does not apply, because Petitioner expressly objected to the concession of guilt, while in Nixon the defendant was unresponsive to defense counsel's choice to concede guilt. Petitioner further argues numerous Sixth Amendment rights and the right to Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated.

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