Nix v. Whiteside Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The defendant and two others went to the victim’s apartment looking for drugs. An argument broke out and the defendant ended up inflicting a fatal stab wound to the victim. Defendant expressed to his attorney that he had to concoct a story the victim having a weapon in order to win on a theory of self-defense. Defendant’s attorney informed him that if he perjured himself on the stand, the attorney would have to inform the court of the deception. Defendant was found guilty of second degree murder. He petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted the writ.

Facts of the case

Question

Does an attorney’s admonition to his client that he will inform the court about what he sees as a client’s plan to commit perjury violate a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment?

Answer

No. The judgment of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed and habeas corpus denied.
In Strickland, we held that to obtain relief under the Sixth Amendment, the moving party must establish both serious attorney error and prejudice.

Conclusion

The United States Supreme Court held that the Defendant’s right to assistance of counsel was not violated by his attorney’s refusal to cooperate with him in presenting perjured testimony at his trial, since (1) the attorney treated the accused’s proposed perjury in accord with professional standards, and (2) the accused’s truthful testimony could not have prejudiced the result of his trial.

  • Case Brief: 1986
  • Petitioner: Nix
  • Respondent: Whiteside
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 475 US 157 (1986)
Argued: Nov 5, 1985
Decided: Feb 26, 1986