Sunday, February 13, 2011

Premo v. Moore, 131 S.Ct. 733 (2001): (Part I)

On the same day the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in Harrington v. Richter, 2011 WL 148254 C.A.9) the Justices also reversed Premo v. Moore.  In a plea bargain, Moore had pled guilty to a charge of second degree murder in an Oregon state court. Denied post conviction relief in state court on grounds of "ineffective  counsel," Moore  petitioned the U.S. District Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus. Moore again alleged "ineffective counsel" occurred prior to his plea based on failure of his lawyer to object to his confession to police officers.  On appeal from the district court ruling, the Ninth Circuit panel extensively wrote on the importance of confessions in criminal cases, and failure of counsel to object constituted "ineffective counsel."
The dissenting judge in the Ninth Circuit decision skewers this principle.  No one doubts the importance of a confession, but under Ninth Circuit reasoning defense counsel must file every motion, frivolous or not, prior to any plea.  The prosecution is unlikely to engage in any plea bargaining under those circumstances. Oregon sought review of the Ninth Circuit decision in the Supreme Court.
Reversed. The Supreme Court verbally lashed the Ninth Circuit again, explaining the role of plea bargaining in criminal cases and the irrelevance of the need for counsel to file a every motion to exclude evidence prior to trial in order to avoid criticism of "ineffectiveness."  As the Court notes, an appellate court on a cold record cannot intuit the nuances of "plea bargaining, i.e., whether the prosecution has a strong case or not; whether witnesses other than a police officer can testify to a confession; the strength of an alibi; the testimony of accomplices; the trial/ sentencing judge; the likely composition of a jury.  The list of problems for prosecution and defense is endless...
And the most important factor for defense counsel: the death penalty.  Moore had attacked the victim, bound him with tape, threw him in the trunk of a car and eventually killed him.  These facts are sufficient to warrant the death penalty after a trial.  Defense counsel received a reasonable offer from the prosecution for reasons unknown on the record.  But if the defendant refused the offer, the prosecution would continue investigation in an attempt to strengthen the case, and the potential of seeking the death penalty loomed.
Again the Supreme Court explains the role of the Anti-Terrorism statute (AEDPA; 28. U.S.C. 2254) and reproaches the Ninth Circuit for mis interpreting the statute and Supreme Court case law.   
Supreme Court case law. See, discussion of AEDPA in Harrington v. Richter.
The most important part of the case is the Supreme Court explanation of the role of federal courts in reviewing allegations of its leading cases on ineffective counsel; Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).  Federal appellate courts reviewing state court decisions on habeas corpus cannot undertake its own interpretation of Strickland and the effectiveness of counsel.  The court must concede to a state court ruling. and issue the writ only if the state court interpretation is unreasonable, and not interpret Stickland de novo.

1 comment:

  1. The counsel needs to be aware of their ruling. This is to come up with appropriate judgment.

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