Court reluctant on plea bargains after sentencing

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The Supreme Court seemed reluctant Monday to allow criminals to ask for a previously offered plea bargain after they've been sentenced, despite the inmates' claim of misconduct by their lawyers including neglecting to tell their clients that a deal had been offered.

Asking judges to go back and figure out on appeal whether a suspect would have taken a plea deal before a trial, whether a judge would have accepted it, whether a prosecutor would have withdrawn it or whether the negotiations would have fallen apart "is simply unworkable," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often a tiebreaker votes on divisive issues.

The high court heard appeals from two different sets of prosecutors who had their cases overturned by appeals courts that said criminals were denied their Sixth Amendment effective "assistance of counsel" because of mistakes during plea negotiations. The Supreme Court has amplified that by saying that "counsel's representation must not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness" and that there must not be "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different."

In the first case, Anthony Cooper's conviction for shooting a woman in the thigh and buttocks after missing a shot to her head was overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati because his lawyer gave him bad advice. His lawyer told him not to take a plea offer that could have had him out of prison in four years, thinking that there could not be a finding that Cooper intended to murder his victim.

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