Tuesday, October 2, 2007
A lawyer appointed to represent a defendant charged with armed robbery moved to withdraw the day before the scheduled trial, stating he could "no longer competently and professionally represent [the defendant]." The lawyer then told the court that the client wished to testify in a manner in the lawyer's opinion would be false. The judge denied the motion to withdraw and advised the client that he would be required to proceed without counsel if he testified. The defendant did not testify and was convicted.
On appeal, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the lawyer must know, rather than believe, that the expected testimony would be false. The defendant was improperly forced to choose between the right to testify and the right to counsel. The error was not harmless and the defendant was granted a new trial. (Mike Frisch)