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Name: Lafler v. Cooper
Case #: 10-209
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 03/21/2012
Subsequent History: Cross-site: 132 S.Ct. 1376; 182 L.Ed.2d 398

The prejudice showing required when there is ineffective assistance in plea bargaining is a demonstration of a reasonable probability that the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice. Cooper was charged in Michigan with assault with intent to commit murder and four other offenses. Cooper pointed a gun at the victim’s head, fired, and missed. He kept firing in pursuit and the victim was shot in the buttock, hip and abdomen. The prosecutor offered to dismiss two of the charges and recommend a sentence of 51-85 months in exchange for a guilty plea. The offer was rejected on the advice of trial counsel that the prosecution would be unable to prove intent to murder because the victim was shot below the waist. He was convicted at trial and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 185 to 360 months in prison. The Michigan appellate court found there was no ineffective assistance of counsel because Cooper knowingly and intelligently rejected the plea offer. A federal writ was granted based on counsel’s deficient advice and reliance on an incorrect legal rule, with a remedy of specific performance. Certiorari was granted. The Michigan decision about a “knowing and intelligent” plea did not apply the standard of Strickland and therefore was contrary to clearly established federal law. But for counsel’s deficient performance, there is a reasonable probability that Cooper would have accepted the plea and it would have been implemented by the court. The remedy is not specific performance, but to order the State to reoffer the plea agreement. If the defendant accepts it, then the trial court will have discretion as to whether to vacate the conviction and resentence pursuant to the plea.