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Lafler v. Cooper

Supreme Court of the United States

October 31, 2011, Argued; March 21, 2012, Decided

No. 10-209


 [*160]  [***405]  Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, as in Missouri v. Frye, ante, p. 134, 132 S. Ct. 1399, 182 L. Ed. 2d 379, also decided today, a criminal  [**1383]  defendant seeks a remedy when inadequate assistance of counsel caused nonacceptance of a plea offer and further proceedings led to a less favorable outcome. In Frye, defense counsel did not inform the defendant of the plea offer; and after the offer lapsed the defendant still pleaded guilty, but on more severe terms. Here, the favorable plea offer was reported to the client but, on advice of counsel, was rejected. In Frye, there was a later  [****9] guilty plea. Here, after the plea offer had been rejected, there was a full and fair trial before a jury. After a guilty verdict, the defendant received a sentence harsher than that offered in the rejected plea bargain. The instant case comes to the Court with the concession that counsel's advice with respect to the plea offer fell below the standard of adequate assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.

On the evening of March 25, 2003, respondent pointed a gun toward Kali Mundy's head and fired. From the record, it is unclear why respondent did this, and at trial it was suggested  [*161]  that he might have acted either in self defense or in defense of another person. In any event the shot missed and Mundy fled. Respondent followed in pursuit, firing repeatedly. Mundy was shot in her buttock, hip, and abdomen but survived the assault.

Respondent was charged under Michigan law with assault with intent to murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and for being a habitual offender. On two occasions, the prosecution offered to dismiss  [****10] some of the charges and to recommend a sentence of 51 to 85 months for the remaining charges, in exchange for a guilty plea. In a communication with the court respondent admitted guilt and expressed a willingness to accept the offer. Respondent, however, later rejected the offer on both occasions, allegedly after his attorney convinced him that the prosecution would be unable to establish his intent to murder Mundy because she had been shot below the waist. On the first day of trial the prosecution offered a significantly less favorable plea deal, which respondent again rejected. After trial, respondent was convicted on all counts and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 185 to 360 months' imprisonment.

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566 U.S. 156 *; 132 S. Ct. 1376 **; 182 L. Ed. 2d 398 ***; 2012 U.S. LEXIS 2322 ****; 80 U.S.L.W. 4244; 23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 203; 2012 WL 932019


Subsequent History: On remand at, Writ of habeas corpus granted Cooper v. Lafler, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104162 ( E.D. Mich., July 26, 2012)


Cooper v. Lafler, 376 Fed. Appx. 563, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 9589 (6th Cir.) (6th Cir. Mich., 2010)

Disposition: Vacated and Remanded.


sentence, plea bargain, plea offer, fair trial, convicted, guilty plea, Appeals, advice, cases, deficient performance, ineffective, reliable, ineffective assistance of counsel, ineffective assistance, reasonable probability, plea agreement, plea-bargaining, charges, right to effective assistance, constitutional right, grand jury, per curiam, of the Sixth Amendment, ineffective-assistance-of-counsel, deprive, counsel's error, defense counsel, federal court, habeas relief, go to trial

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Criminal Law & Procedure, Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Pleas, Tests for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, General Overview, Appeals, Standards of Review, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Fair Trial, Relations Among Governments, Contrary & Unreasonable Standard, Contrary to Clearly Established Federal Law, Preliminary Proceedings, Plea Bargaining Process, Enforcement of Plea Agreements