Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

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Law School Case Brief

Nix v. Whiteside - 475 U.S. 157, 106 S. Ct. 988 (1986)

Rule:

Counsel's duty of loyalty and duty to advocate the defendant's cause is limited to legitimate, lawful conduct compatible with the very nature of a trial as a search for truth.

Facts:

Defendant was charged with murder of an acquaintance in a botched drug deal. He initially told his attorney that he stabbed the victim in self-defense because he saw a gun in the victim's hand. He later admitted that he did not see a gun but would testify that he did to bolster his defense. Counsel advised defendant that he could not suborn perjury, and he would advise the court of defendant's plan and seek to withdraw, if he insisted on presenting perjured testimony. Defendant followed counsel's advice and testified at trial that he did not see a gun. Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. He then moved for a new trial on the ground that he had been deprived of a fair trial by his counsel’s admonitions not to state that he saw a gun. The motion, as well as his subsequent petition for a writ of habeas corpus were denied. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the previous rulings and granted the writ of habeas corpus to defendant.

Issue:

Does the counsel’s failure to allow Defendant to present perjured testimony at the trial constitute ineffective assistance of counsel?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that the Defendant’s right to assistance of counsel was not violated by his attorney's refusal to cooperate with him in presenting perjured testimony at his trial, since (1) the attorney treated the accused's proposed perjury in accord with professional standards, and (2) the accused's truthful testimony could not have prejudiced the result of his trial.

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