Ake v. Oklahoma Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Petitioner Glen Burton Ake, an indigent, was charged with first-degree murder and shooting with intent to kill. At his arraignment in an Oklahoma trial court, his behavior was so bizarre that the trial judge,, ordered him to be examined by a psychiatrist. Shortly thereafter, the examining psychiatrist found Ake to be incompetent to stand trial and suggested that he be committed. But six weeks later, after being committed to the state mental hospital, Ake was found to be competent on the condition that he continue to be sedated within an antipsychotic drug. The State then resumed proceedings, and at a pretrial conference Ake’s attorney informed the court that he would raise an insanity defense, and requested a psychiatric evaluation at state expense to determine petitioner’s mental state at the time of the offense, claiming that he was entitled to such an evaluation by the Federal Constitution. On the basis ofthe trial court denied Ake’s motion for such an evaluation. At the guilt phase of the ensuing trial, the examining psychiatrists testified that Ake was dangerous to society, but there was no testimony as to his sanity at the time of the offense. The jury rejected the insanity defense, and Ake was convicted on all counts. At the sentencing proceeding, the State asked for the death penalty on the murder counts, relying on the examining psychiatrists’ testimony to establish the likelihood of Ake’s future dangerous behavior. Ake had no expert witness to rebut this testimony or to give evidence in mitigation of his punishment, and he was sentenced to death. On appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Ake argued that, as an indigent defendant, he should have been provided the services of a court-appointed psychiatrist. The appellate court rejected this and affirmed the convictions and sentences, holding that Ake was not entitled to the services of a court-appointed psychiatrist.


Is a criminal defendant’s counsel presumptively ineffective if counsel declines to file an appeal of a conviction because the defendant already waived the right to appeal in his plea?


“Yes. Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote the opinion for the 8-1 majority. The Court held that, when a defendant has made a preliminary showing that his sanity at the time of the offense will be at issue during the trial, the Constitution requires the government to provide psychiatric assistance if the defendant cannot afford it. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires state-provided assistance in cases where there is a private interest that will be affected by the state’s actions, value that will be derived from the additional safeguards, and when providing the assistance will only be a minimal burden to the state. All three of these factors were present in this case. Furthermore, both justice and the Fourteenth Amendment require a defendant to be able to participate meaningfully in the judicial proceedings, which is impossible if the government were to deny this type of assistance to Ake and similar defendants.Chief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote a concurring opinion in which he noted that the Court’s decision applies only to capital cases.Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote a dissenting opinion in which he, like Justice Burger, argued that this decision should apply only to capital cases. Furthermore, he argued that this rule should provide for an independent psychiatric evaluation, not a comprehensive defense consultant.”

Case Information

Citation: 470 US 68 (1985)
Argued: Nov 7, 1984
Decided: Feb 26, 1985
Granted: Mar 19, 1984
Case Brief: 1985