Defense Counsel Can’t Present an Insanity Defense without the Defendant’s Consent

The court of appeals recently addressed an issue that has divided courts elsewhere: whether defense counsel may present an insanity defense without the defendant’s consent. The court ruled that defense counsel may not do so, stating that “because the decision of whether to plead not guilty by reason of insanity is part of the decision of what plea to enter, the right to make that decision is a substantial right belonging to the defendant.”

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Counsel’s Unconsented-To Admission is Reversible Error, Except When It’s Not

In State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985), the North Carolina Supreme Court held that when defense counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent per se ineffective assistance of counsel occurs. The Harbison Court reasoned that when counsel admits guilt without consent, it is essentially the same as entering a guilty plea on the defendant’s behalf without the defendant’s consent. It concluded: “ineffective assistance of counsel, per se in violation of the Sixth Amendment, has been established in every criminal case in which the defendant’s counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent.” Id. at 180.

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Ineffective Assistance in Plea Bargaining?

On Halloween, I was dressed up as a sheep, trick or treating with my daughter, Little Bo Peep. Fortunately, serious legal business was being conducted elsewhere: the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lafler v. Cooper, a fascinating ineffective assistance of counsel case. Here’s a summary of the case, courtesy of SCOTUSblog: Cooper shot a … Read more

Failure to Request a Jury Instruction on Informants

I was catching up on the Fourth Circuit’s recent opinions this weekend when I came across United States v. Luck. It raises some interesting issues that are not specific to federal court, so I thought I’d put together a post about it. The defendant in Luck was charged with drug and gun crimes. The government’s … Read more