|Supreme Court refuses to limit appeals based on bad counsel
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press - (Published April 23, 2003)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court refused Wednesday to limit federal
appeals involving claims of bad lawyering, an issue that has concerned
some justices in death row cases.
The case did not concern a death sentence, but the court's reasoning could apply to death row appeals.
In speeches, Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have expressed concern about the quality of lawyers available to poor defendants facing the death penalty. The justices heard arguments in another case last month that gives the court an opportunity to set some standards for lawyers who take on death penalty cases.
Wednesday's decision allows lower courts to consider an appeal from Joseph Massaro, described by prosecutors as a "soldier" in the Luchese organized crime family that controlled an extortion ring involving Long Island topless bars, gambling and loansharking.
Massaro was sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 killing of a mob partner in a dispute over gambling profits. Prosecutors introduced new evidence three days into the trial. On appeal, Massaro's new lawyer claimed that that the new evidence - a bullet - should not have been allowed.
The Bush administration had encouraged the high court to use this case to limit the appeal options of people convicted of federal crimes. The administration said Massaro raised the issue too late.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said a limit would speed resolution of some bad lawyering claims, but it also would burden appeals courts and potentially make it harder to raise such concerns.
The ruling does not affect state appeals, but Kennedy said more states are following similar rules.
The case is Massaro
v. United States, 02-1559.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Three Strikes Legal - Index