Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Supreme Court establishes standard for plea bargain advice

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burt v. Titlow that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of review when it decided that Vonlee Titlow's counsel was ineffective.

Titlow was arrested along with another woman for the murder of the woman's husband. Her attorney had worked out a plea to manslaughter if Titlow testified against the wife.

Three days before wife's trial Titlow hired a new attorney who demands a better plea offers.  The state refused and without Titlow's testimony the wife was acquitted.  Titlow was later convicted of second degree murder.

Titlow raised the ineffective assistance of counsel claim asserting she was not properly advised during the plea bargain process.  The Sixth Circuit agreed.  The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. 

Justice Samuel Alito wrote, "When a state prisoner asks a federal court to set aside a sentence due to ineffective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining, our cases require that the federal court use a ‘doubly deferential’ standard of review that gives both the state court and the defense attorney the benefit of the doubt."

Although the Court was bothered by the conduct of Titlow's attorney, the Court believed she was "adequately advised before deciding to withdraw the guilty plea."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that plea bargaining is now governed by the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.

For full opinion Click Here

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