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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Courts - 6th Circuit - "Bad work by lawyers may save clients"

The Louisville Courier Journal reports today:

CINCINNATI — Lawyers might be tempted to offer a weak defense in death penalty cases because many execution sentences are being overturned due to lawyer incompetence, the chief judge of a four-state federal appeals court said in an opinion released yesterday.

Prisoners who receive ineffective assistance are likely to be spared, "certainly for many years, and frequently forever," wrote Chief Judge Danny Boggs of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"To put it bluntly, it might well appear to a disinterested observer that the most incompetent and ineffective counsel that can be provided to a convicted and death-eligible defendant is a fully-investigated and competent penalty-phase defense under the precedents of the Supreme Court and of our court," Boggs wrote. * * *

Boggs' comments came in a unanimous, three-judge ruling that threw out the death sentence for a man whose execution has been pending 21 years. * * *

Boggs called the possibility of deliberately ineffective representation a "moral hazard" but said "any sensible attorney … would have to be blind not to reason."

He also said his thinking was only speculation, and he did not criticize lawyers in this or any other case.

Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, who was on the three-judge panel, concurred in the ruling but wrote a separate opinion to express her dismay with Boggs' "unjustified attack" on defense lawyers and, indirectly, on other members of the court.

"For the chief judge of a federal appellate court to state that it is 'virtually inevitable' that 'any mildly-sentient defense attorney' would consider playing the equivalent of Russian roulette with the life of a client is truly disturbing," she wrote.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 25, 2006 08:46 AM
Posted to Courts in general