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Morrell v. State

Supreme Court of Alaska
575 P.2d 1200 (1978)


Clayton Morrell (defendant) was arrested for kidnapping, assault, and rape. After Morell was arrested, public defender Stephen Cline was appointed to represent Morrell. Approximately one month later, Cline received a call from Morrell’s friend, John Wagner, who had been living in Morrell’s home while Morrell awaited trial. Wagner had cleaned out one of Morrell’s cars and found a notepad with what appeared to be a kidnapping plan on it. Wagner asked Cline to look at and take possession of the kidnapping plan, and Cline did so. Cline reached out to the state and national bar associations for advice on the course of action to take. Cline received an advisory opinion that stated he should return the kidnapping plan to Wagner, explain to Wagner the law on concealment of evidence, and withdraw from the case if an ethical violation would occur. Cline attempted to return the kidnapping plan to Wagner, and then arranged for the kidnapping plan to be transferred to the police at Wagner’s request. At trial, the kidnapping plan was introduced as evidence against Morrell. Morrell filed a motion to suppress the kidnapping plan, but the motion was denied. Cline testified about the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping plan. Morrell was convicted. Morrell appealed, arguing that the trial court’s decision to admit his kidnapping plan into evidence deprived him of a fair trial, because the kidnapping plan was obtained in a way that deprived him of effective assistance of counsel. Morrell also argued that Cline had no affirmative duty to return the kidnapping plan or assist Wagner in turning it over to the police.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rabinowitz, J.)

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