Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Darden: Conceding guilt not presumed to be ineffective

In Darden v. U.S., No. 10-16640 (Feb. 12, 2013), the Court held that U.S. v. Cronic (1984) does not require a court to presume that a defense counsel’s decision to concede guilt at trial on one of two robbery charges, without consulting the defendant, is ineffective assistance under the Sixth Amendment.

The Court noted that at trial “credibility must never be sacrificed.” This applies when the defendant “faces an unwinnable battle against one set of charges.” Here, Darden’s counsel conceded guilt as to one robbery “for the express purpose of preserving credibility with the jury to focus on” the other, contested, robbery. In addition, Darden vigorously stressed the lack of evidence as to the second robbery. This was not a case of counsel’s “betrayal of his client.”

The Court also found that the failure to consult with the defendant on the strategy of conceding guilt, “while certainly” among counsel’s duties, did not automatically prejudice the defendant.