On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether Robert McCoy of Louisiana should get a new trial because it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to concede a client’s guilt against the client’s wishes.
Over repeated objections from defendant Robert McCoy, who insisted on his innocence, defense lawyer Larry English told a Louisiana jury that McCoy was “crazy” and had killed three people. The jury’s verdict was death. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether McCoy should get a new trial because it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to concede a client’s guilt against the client’s wishes, The New York Times reports. English was hired after McCoy fired his public defenders and was seeking to represent himself. He had been charged with killing his mother-in-law, her husband, and her grandson.
English told McCoy that the case was unwinnable because of the evidence the prosecution had, including that when McCoy was discovered, the gun used in the killings was under a seat of the vehicle he was traveling in. English urged McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. McCoy wanted to mount a defense that he was out of town during the murders and was framed by police because he knew they were running a drug trafficking ring. English told McCoy he was going to admit that McCoy was guilty because maintaining credibility with the jury was the best chance to keep him alive. English saw saving McCoy’s life as part of a larger struggle against injustice. “The criminal justice system in this country is so racked by racism and classism that there is no way the death penalty can be implemented in a way that’s constitutional,” he said. Lawrence Fox of Yale Law School, who filed a brief for McCoy, argues that as long as a client is not asking the lawyer to do anything illegal, and unless the client has been declared incompetent, the lawyer must heed the client regarding the admission of guilt.