Law School Case Brief
Red Dog v. State - 625 A.2D 245 (Del. 1993)
A defendant's wish to forego further appeals and accept the death penalty, like other decisions relating to the objectives of litigation, is essentially that of the client, whose decision the attorney must respect. Del. Lawyers Rules for Prof. Conduct 1.2(a). The means to be employed to achieve such objectives are a matter on which the attorney is to consult with the client and over which the lawyer retains the ultimate prerogative to act.
Criminal defendant Red Dog was convicted of a capital case and sentenced to the death penalty. The Supreme Court of Delaware had observed that the defendant's counsel, all attorneys in the Office of the Public Defender, appeared to have taken inconsistent positions concerning the raising of the issue of the defendant's competency to forego further appeals. The Court issued a show cause order and directed responses to the attorneys as to why sanctions should not be imposed upon them for certain aspects of their representation of the defendant. The respondent attorneys filed written responses defending their actions as within the bounds of professional responsibility and required by the exigencies of representation of a defendant facing execution.
Was the show cause order, which directed criminal defense attorneys to respond as to why sanctions should not be imposed upon them for certain aspects of their representation of the defendant, proper?
The Supreme Court of Delaware discharged the rules to show cause ordered against respondent attorneys who represented a defendant who faced execution. The Court stated that the attorneys violated Del. Lawyers Rules for Prof. Conduct 1.2 when they insisted on raising the issue of the defendant's competency to forego further appeals despite his clearly expressed desire to do so. Nevertheless, the Court, allowing for the personal and professional demands required in defense of a capital case, found that the attorneys did not act in bad faith. Respondents' actions, while reflecting inconsistency, lack of effective coordination and poor judgment, were undertaken in apparent good faith in a complex and demanding representation. The Court was satisfied that, in spite of a disjointed and confusing presentation of issues in violation of Del. Lawyers Rules for Prof. Conduct 5.1 and 5.2, there was no evidence that the attorneys were motivated by anything other than their client's best interests.
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