6th Amendment: Can a Defense Lawyer Concede a Client’s Guilt Despite the Client’s Objection?

The United States Supreme Court will review the conviction of Robert McCoy, who was recently sentenced to death by the Louisiana Supreme Court. McCoy, was charged with the murder of the son, father, and step mother of his estranged wife.

At trial in the Louisiana Supreme Court, McCoy insisted that he did not commit the gruesome tripe murder, but rather was set up by corrupt cops who committed the murders and then framed McCoy. While McCoy was adamant that he did not commit the murders, his defense lawyer, Larry English, had other ideas. During his opening statement to the jury, English was quoted, “There is no way reasonably possible that you can listen to the evidence in this case and not come to any other conclusions than Robert McCoy was the cause of these individuals deaths.”

The Sixth Amendment states that the accused shall have the right to assistance of counsel for his defense. By agreeing to review this case, the United States Supreme Court will provide clarity to the question “Does it violate the United State Constitution for defense counsel to concede a client’s guilt despite the client’s adamant objection?”

This dilemma arises more often than one would think in capital cases. During capital cases, when defense attorneys do not believe their client has a chance of convincing the jury they are innocent, many believe that the most effective strategy is to generate trust amongst jurors and admit guilt, in hopes of receiving a sentence that does not involve death. While these defense attorneys are trying to protect their clients lives, they overstepping their boundaries as counsel. Ultimately, the decision on whether to concede guilt is the accused’s to make. The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the review in 2018. It will be interesting to see how the court rules on McCoy v. Louisiana.

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