Nix v. Whiteside

LOCATION: Hardwick's Apartment

DOCKET NO.: 84-1321
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 475 US 157 (1986)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1985
DECIDED: Feb 26, 1986

Brent R. Appel - on behalf of Petitioner
Patrick Reilly Grady - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Nix v. Whiteside

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 05, 1985 in Nix v. Whiteside

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Appel, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Brent R. Appel:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This interesting case raises questions regarding the proper role of the federal court in reviewing the conduct of an attorney who is faced with a client whom he has good cause to believe is about to commit perjury in a state court criminal trial.

In a nutshell, the Court of Appeals held that admonitions by an attorney violated the right to effective assistance of counsel, the right to testify, and due process of law.

I think the best way I can assist the Court this afternoon first is a rendition of the facts, because there are significant constitutional factual issues raised by the record that the Court should be informed of.

Secondly, I'll dive directly into the merits of this case.

The state's position is that where the only effect of admonition is the exclusion of perjured testimony at trial it is not a basis for habeas corpus reversal of a state court criminal conviction.

Secondly and consistently with the first argument, the state's position is that Strickland v. Washington provides guidance for analyzing the facts in this case, and that: first, the facts reveal no error of counsel that is outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance; and second, even if there were such errors, actual prejudice in the sense of substantial likelihood that the jury verdict would have been affected is not present here.

Let's take our voyage through the facts.

Whiteside and two companions in the early morning hours approached Calvin Love's small apartment, where he was sleeping with his girlfriend.

They obtained entry to the apartment and a heated argument occurred over drugs.

Love arose from his bed and was stabbed by Calvin... by the defendant here, Whiteside As a result of the stabbing, Whiteside fled, disposed of the knife.

But before he could make arrangements to flee to Michigan, he was arrested by police.

Calvin Whiteside died shortly thereafter at the Cedar Rapids Hospital.

Whiteside's conflict with the judicial system began almost immediately.

His first appointed attorneys were former prosecutors and, after several session meeting with his attorneys, the attorneys approached the state trial court and moved to withdraw and Whiteside testified he just didn't want these attorneys.

When asked why, he said: Well, they're former prosecutors; I don't feel comfortable with them.

At that time he then insisted on the appointment of an attorney by the name of Thomas Cailor.

The state trial court would not allow that appointment because Cailor's law partner was already representing one of the companions of Whiteside who was present at the scene of the crime, thereby raising a potential issue of multiple representation.

Nonetheless, statute insisted he wanted Cailor to represent him.

Finally, Gary Robinson was appointed by the court to represent Whiteside.

What this fact shows... what this series of facts show is that Whiteside knew how to complain about attorneys and was not shy about expressing those views to the court.

Robinson immediately began a zealous defense of Whiteside on the charges of murder.

In the 69 days before trial, he met with his client 23 times or more, and I think the record demonstrates the very effective character of Robinson's representation.

At the beginning of his representation, he met with Whiteside in his jail cell and was presented with a written piece of paper that purported to describe the character of transactions that led to White's death.

And in that written statement the following words appear:

"He was pulling a pistol from underneath the pillow in bed just prior to the stabbing. "

And his attorney asked, did you see the gun?

Did you actually see the gun?

And the answer was no, but I thought for sure he had a gun.