The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert today in a Michigan case, Burt v. Titlow (12-414), that may clarify the scope of another criminal case from Michigan, Lafler v. Cooper, decided last year. From SCOTUSBlog:
The Burt case involves a Troy, Michigan, woman, Vonlee Nicole Titlow, who was convicted of second-degree murder for the suffocation of her uncle, Donald Rogers, in August 2000. While she was being held in jail after she had pleaded guilty under a plea bargain, but before she was sentenced, a sheriff’s deputy told her she should not have pleaded guilty if she believed she was innocent.
Titlow got a new attorney and claimed innocence, and the lawyer told her to withdraw her guilty plea, thus nullifying the plea bargain. She was facing a sentence of seven to fifteen years on a manslaughter charge, and the attorney said that was too long. Titlow was then tried on the more serious charge of murder, and was convicted of second-degree murder. She was then sentenced to twenty to forty years in prison.
The Sixth Circuit Court ruled that her Sixth Amendment right had been violated by the attorney’s advice to withdraw the guilty plea, an action which led to her receiving the longer prison sentence for murder. That is the issue that state officials challenged in their petition to the Supreme Court. The key issue is the proof that must be offered to show that the accused would have accepted the offer if the advice from the defense lawyer had not been faulty.