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US Supreme Court rules in ineffective assistance of counsel cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday dismissed [per curiam opinion, PDF] the case of Arave v. Hoffman (07-110) [docket], where the Court first granted certiorari [JURIST report] in November to consider whether a death row inmate in Idaho should be able to accept a plea bargain after his conviction based on an argument that the deal was originally rejected because of bad advice from his lawyer. The Supreme Court's dismissal was based on the defendant's decision to abandon his ineffective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining claim and came at the request of both the defendant and the state. A lower court order requiring the defendant to be resentenced based on a separate argument of ineffective assistance of counsel during sentencing remains in effect. The Court remanded the case to the federal appeals court with instructions that the claim be dismissed with prejudice in order to allow the defendant to proceed with the district court's resentencing order. AP has more.

The Supreme Court also issued a second per curiam opinion [PDF text] Monday, holding in the case of Wright v. Van Patten (07-212) [docket] that the participation of the defendant's counsel at a court hearing through speakerphone does not presumptively constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. Van Patten appealed his sentence on charges of first degree murder arguing that his lawyer's physical absence amounted to a denial of counsel in violation of the Constitution. The court wrote that "even if we agree with Van Patten that a lawyer physically present will tend to perform better than one on the phone, it does not necessarily follow that mere telephone contact amounted to total absence or "prevented [counsel] from assisting the accused." AP has more.

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