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Nix v. Whiteside

United States Supreme Court
475 U.S. 157 (1986)


Facts

Whiteside (defendant) was convicted of murder. For his trial, he was appointed a lawyer, Robinson. As they were preparing for trial, Whiteside and his friends who were present during the shooting all told Robinson that they saw the victim reaching for something, though they could not see what. Robinson’s defense strategy was self-defense because Whiteside reasonably believed that the victim was reaching for a gun. However, a week before trial, Whiteside told Robinson that the thing the victim had been reaching for was metallic. When Robinson questioned him further, Whiteside said that if he did not testify that he saw a gun he would be “dead.” Robinson assured Whiteside that all they needed to prove was reasonable belief the victim had a gun. Robinson went on to say that if Whiteside testified to seeing something metallic, this would be perjury and Robinson would have to tell the court. Whiteside did testify at trial but did not perjure himself. The jury found Whiteside guilty of murder. Whiteside moved for a new trial claiming he had been deprived of a fair trial when Robinson told him not to testify to seeing something metallic. The trial court denied the motion. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals however held that Robinson’s threat to violate attorney-client privilege violated the standards of effective representation.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

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Concurrence (Brennan, J.)

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Concurrence (Stevens, J.)

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