Florida v. Nixon - Oral Argument - November 02, 2004

Florida v. Nixon

Media for Florida v. Nixon

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 13, 2004 in Florida v. Nixon

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 2004 in Florida v. Nixon

John Paul Stevens:

We'll now hear argument in Florida against Nixon.

Mr. Lemieux.

George S. Lemieux:

Justice Stevens, and may it please the Court:

When experienced counsel thoroughly investigates, prepares for trial, and discusses his trial strategy with his client, a challenge for effectiveness may not presume prejudice.

Rather, this Court's two-part inquiry, articulated in Strickland v. Washington, is the proper measure.

The Florida Supreme Court erred in its decision below for three main reasons.

First, they failed to apply Strickland's two-part circumstance-specific, performance prejudice inquiry to a question of trial strategy.

Second, it improperly presumed prejudice under this Court's decision in United States v. Cronic where there was neither a complete denial of counsel, nor did counsel entirely fail to subject the State's case to meaningful adversarial testing.

Third, the Florida Supreme Court improperly expanded this Court's decision in Boykin v. Alabama from governing pleas of guilt to governing tactical decisions made during full-fledged trials.

For these three reasons and because the Florida court's decision conflicts with Strickland and its progeny and will disrupt the effective administration of justice, we request reversal.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Counsel, was... was the attorney's essential concession of guilt sort of the functional equivalent of a guilty plea, do you think?

George S. Lemieux:

No, Justice O'Connor, it was not.

Mr. Corin, after speaking to his client on three occasions about this trial strategy, sought to concede the underlying... the underlying crimes but to argue what was the most essential part of this case, and that was whether or not death should be the outcome of the jury.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, yes, he clearly tried to preserve a role in the sentencing, but we often have guilty pleas and then leave the sentencing to be determined.

Was... was what he did concerning the guilt/innocence phase the equivalent of a guilty plea, do you think?

George S. Lemieux:

It was not, Your Honor, because a guilty plea, as this Court talked about in Boykin v. Alabama, gives up rights of the defendant.

The lawyer and the defendant waive rights.

They waive the right to trial.

They waive the right to have the State prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

They waive the right to have a jury, to confront witnesses, to cross examine, all of the attendant trial rights.

Mr. Nixon--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Was there any cross examination of witnesses conducted?

George S. Lemieux:

--There was some cross examination, not a lot.

There was cross examination of one of Mr. Nixon's uncles, who was one of the seven confessions in this case, and we don't know specifically why Mr. Corin engaged in that cross examination.

It could be because that was probably the weakest of the seven confessions and perhaps he wanted the jury to hear that that confession was weak.

Antonin Scalia:

There was also an objection to introduction of... of photographs that... that were inflammatory, wasn't there?

George S. Lemieux:

Yes, there was, Justice Scalia.

In fact, you know, Mr. Nixon was... was very much engaged in the guilt phase of this trial.

He objected to the introduction of evidence.

Antonin Scalia:

Those photographs would have infected the... the penalty phase, as well as the guilt phase.