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Commonwealth v. Mitchell

781 N.E.2d 1237 (2003)

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Commonwealth v. Mitchell

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

781 N.E.2d 1237 (2003)

Facts

Curtis Mitchell (defendant) was tried for murder. After both sides rested, Mitchell’s counsel informed the judge at sidebar that Mitchell wished to testify and that counsel—concerned about participating in a fraud on the court—wanted to let Mitchell provide narrative testimony. Relying on Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 3.3, the court permitted Mitchell to testify in narrative form. Mitchell was convicted of murder and moved for a new trial, arguing that his lawyer lacked a basis for invoking MRPC 3.3. Mitchell submitted an affidavit stating that he never told his counsel he was going to testify falsely. Counsel’s affidavit stated that Mitchell initially told him he did not kill the victims and later told him he did, and that counsel did not believe Mitchell’s intended trial testimony because it contradicted Mitchell’s earlier version and was contrary to the evidence the prosecution (plaintiff) provided in discovery and presented at the trial. The court denied Mitchell’s motion for a new trial. On appeal, Mitchell argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel, in part because the judge applied the wrong standard to what an attorney must “know” before concluding that his client will commit perjury.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Greaney, J.)

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