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Court to clarify how plea bargaining should work

- Associated Press - Friday, January 7, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will set further rules on how plea bargaining should work for criminal defendants through several cases the court will hear later this year.

The high court on Friday decided to hear appeals from Michigan and Missouri officials who want to stop their cases from being thrown out because of bad plea bargaining advice between lawyers and their clients.

In Michigan, Anthony Cooper's conviction for shooting a woman in the thigh and buttocks after missing a shot to her head was overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati because his lawyer gave him bad advice. His lawyer told him not to take a plea offer, thinking that there could not be a finding that Cooper intended to murder his victim. But Cooper was convicted of assault with intent to murder and other charges.

The appeals court said the incorrect advice equals unconstitutional ineffective assistance and ordered Cooper released. But Michigan officials argue that Cooper got a fair trial and that trial should not be thrown out because of his lawyer's mistake.

In Missouri, prosecutors offered Galin Edward Frye two deals while seeking his conviction for driving while his license was revoked, but his lawyer never told Frye about the offers. Frye pleaded guilty to a felony charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.

He appealed, saying his lawyer should have told him about the previous deals. A Missouri appeals court agreed.

Prosecutors say not knowing about the deals they offered doesn't mean that Frye didn't know what he was doing when he decided to plead guilty.

The Missouri case is Missouri v. Frye, 10-444 and the Michigan case is Lafler v. Cooper, 10-209.

The court will hear both cases later on this year.

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