Commentary on Counsel’s Duty to Seek and Negotiate a Disposition in Capital cases (ABA Guideline 10.9.1)

By Russell Stetler / Hofstra Law Review, on 1 January 2003

The ABA’s revised Guidelines have squarely addressed the importance of seeking and negotiating dispositions in capital cases as a core component of effective representation in matters of life and death. Pleas have been available in the overwhelming majority of capital cases in the post-Furman era, including the cases of hundreds of prisoners who have been executed. There are no precise empirical data on this question. Plea negotiations are typically confidential, with both parties maintaining a posture of plausible denial if negotiations fail. The prosecutor may find it harder to argue to jurors that justice in a particular case requires a sentence of death if they know that he had offered the defendant a life sentence only weeks before. Defense counsel may not want to advertise her willingness to plead to first-degree murder if the case proceeds to trial and she is arguing to the jurors that the proof supports only second-degree. In addition, there are cases where a plea was acceptable to both sides, but negotiation never began because each side waited for the other to initiate discussions.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Legal Representation,