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The Goals of Representation

In the NYT, William Glaberson has this article on the on-and-off guilty plea of Steven Hayes, defendant in the notorious Cheshire, Connecticut triple murder. During the time he wanted to plead guilty,

Mr. Hayes's lawyers filed a legal motion on Monday that was something of a brief against their client's wishes. They argued that even if he changed his mind yet again he should not be permitted to plead guilty.

They noted that a bedrock principle of law provides that clients, not their lawyers, decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. But they argued that that was not necessarily true in death-penalty cases. In Connecticut, as in many states, a guilty plea leads to a separate hearing -- the penalty phase -- to determine if the guilty person is put to death. As a result, the lawyers said, a guilty plea "falls within the exclusive authority of the defendant's attorneys" after consultation with the defendant.

Some legal experts and other death penalty lawyers said this was a creative claim.
"Creative" is charitable. The claim is nonsense. A mentally competent client has the absolute right to decide the goals of representation, and the lawyer's decision authority is limited to deciding on the best means to that end. In this respect, death is not different.

A lawyer can certainly try to talk the client out of a position the lawyer deems unwise, and they apparently succeeded in that effort in the end. But to actually file a brief in opposition to your client's goal is definitely beyond the pale.


Seems to me that the state should not have to pay for the time these guys are billing for the filing of this brief.

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