U.S. Supreme Court Denies California Death Row Inmate's Request for New Attorneys

On March 5, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that California inmate Kenneth Clair cannot have his conviction overturned because he disagreed with the defense strategy used by his attorneys. Clair was represented by court-appointed attorneys because he could not afford to hire his own. The dispute arose after Clair complained his attorneys were ignoring evidence found by the prosecution that might prove his innocence. In 2005, he filed a petition to change federal public defenders. A federal judge denied his request but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the judge’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, unanimously ruled that the Court of Appeals was incorrect. Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion, said that Clair waited too long to change attorneys. Justice Kagan wrote, “The case was all over but the deciding; counsel, whether old or new, could do nothing more in the trial court proceedings. At that point and in that forum, Clair’s conflict with his lawyers no longer mattered.” Read full opinion here.

(T. Ramstack, “Supreme Court Denies Death Row Inmate’s Request for New Attorneys,” AHN News, March 5, 2012; Martel v. Clair, No. 10–1265). See U.S. Supreme Court.