Defendant Has Sixth Amendment Right Of Autonomy Over The Defense
May 30th, 2022

In People v. Bloom (Apr. 21, 2022, S095223) [pp. 34-35] Bloom was charged with killing 3 people. He admitted killing one but repeatedly objected to his lawyer admitting that he killed the other 2 and relying on a diminished mens rea defense to argue that Bloom was only guilty of manslaughter. Despite Bloom’s objections, the judge allowed defense counsel to argued that Bloom killed the three victims, but the killings were manslaughter, not first degree murder. On appeal Bloom argued that counsel’s concessions violated his Sixth Amendment right of autonomy over the defense under McCoy v. Louisiana (2018) 584 U.S. ___ [138 S.Ct. 1500].

In McCoy, the defendant shot and killed his estranged wife’s mother, stepfather, and son in their home. (McCoy, supra, 138 S.Ct. at pp. 1505-1506.) McCoy was indicted on three counts of first degree murder but maintained he was not involved in the killings because he was out of state and the victims were instead killed by corrupt police officers following a drug deal. (Id. at p. 1506.) In light of “overwhelming” evidence tying his client to the murders, McCoy’s counsel decided the best strategy to avoid a death sentence was to concede McCoy’s guilt and appeal to the jury’s mercy in view of McCoy’s” ‘serious mental and emotional issues'” (id. at p. 1507). McCoy, however, was” ‘completely] oppos[ed] to [his attorney] telling the jury that [he] was guilty of killing the three victims.'” (Id. at p. 1506.) The judged ruled that it was counsel’s role to” ‘make the trial decision'” about whether to concede his client’s guilt. Accordingly, counsel conceded McCoy’s guilt.

The United States Supreme Court held that counsel’s concession violated McCoy’s right, grounded in the Sixth Amendment, to “decide that the objective of the defense is to assert innocence.” (McCoy, supra, 138 S.Ct. at p. 1508.)

In Bloom, the CSC concluded “that McCoy forbids counsel from conceding guilt of the charged offense or lesser included offenses despite the client’s wish to maintain innocence. ” People v. Bloom (Apr. 21, 2022, S095223) [pp. 40]

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