Steve Kaplan is of counsel to the Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. and a member of the Innocence Project of Minnesota board of directors. The following is the first in a series of articles addressing factors that contribute to the wrongful conviction of actually innocent people.
The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution afford an accused the right to the “effective” assistance of counsel. Decades ago, the Supreme Court defined “effective” assistance as the right to a defense lawyer who was “zealous” and “active.”
The ABA Criminal Justice Standards for the Defense Function also broadly defines the right as based on the lawyer’s duty to “serve as the accused’s counselor and advocate with courage, devotion, and to the utmost of his or her learning and ability and according to law.”
What exactly, however, does that mean the defense lawyer must do when a client is accused of a serious crime that may result in decades or life in prison or, indeed, lethal injection in the death house?Read More