WHEN IS THERE “TOO MUCH” HOSTILITY BETWEEN THE STATE AND THE CRIMINAL DEFENDANT’S ATTORNEYS?
There is a Louisiana prosecutor who may be actually crazy, and he is unquestionably absolutely crazy about the use of the death penalty in certain cases. Unfortunately for him and the citizens of the State of Louisiana, his loose lips may cost the state a lot of money in appellate and, potentially, re-trial costs. You see, Dale Cox of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, has actually acknowledged making threats towards the Defendant’s criminal defense attorneys in a pending case:
I would very much like to maintain some level of civility. I would have liked that from the very beginning. I would have preferred if these three lawyers had not signed a public pleading calling me unusually blood thirsty because I was doing my job in advocating for a death penalty that I thought was called for by law.
I admit to everything he [defense counsel] said. I did want him to go outside. I did want to cold cock him. I wanted to cold cock all three of them because that’s so outrageous that they could do the things they do without regard for the consequences. I mean, they’re not being threatened. Their families aren’t being threatened. They’re not being protected by law enforcement. I am. And part of the reason I am is for crazy lunatic crap like this that goes into public filings and then out on the Internet everywhere. So if they would withdraw that comment from those pleadings, I would be happy to stand mute and be as civil as anyone they’ve ever seen in their lives. But until they do that, until they do that, they better be careful what they say.
That may seem like no big deal to a lot of folks. The problem is that a man’s life hangs in the balance, and when a district attorney creates such an air of hostility that it potentially affects the course of action that a criminal defense attorney, it raises very real concerns in the post-conviction, ineffective assistance of counsel area. Generally speaking, the prejudice prong of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim is the most difficult to prove. However, when a prosecutor threatens a defense attorney during a case, prejudice may not be difficult to establish:
As to the prejudice prong of establishing ineffective assistance of counsel, “this Court has identified only three instances in which a petitioner would be authorized to rely upon a presumption to meet his burden of establishing prejudice: (1) an actual or constructive denial of counsel, (2) government interference with defense counsel, and (3) counsel who labors under an actual conflict of interest that adversely affects his performance.” Walker v. Hagins, 290 Ga. 512, 514, 722 S.E.2d 725 (2012) (Citations and punctuation omitted.)
Norton v. State, 293 Ga. 332, 338, 745 S.E.2d 630, 636 (2013).
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