Ineffective Strategy Does Not Mean Ineffective Counsel

2002

In Bell v. Cone, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to find that an attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel when he decided at the sentencing phase of a death-penalty trial not to call witnesses or to make a final argument. Given the brutality of the crime (the murders of two elderly victims), the defense counsel refused to make a closing argument, which, in turn, deprived the prosecution of its ability to make one, sparing the jury from hearing again the details of the crime. The Court finds that this was a “tactical decision about which competent lawyers might disagree” and therefore, it could not be found to have violated the Sixth Amendment.