Constitutional Law – Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel in Federal Courts and Waiver Thereof

Indicted for illegal traffic in narcotics, petitioner and his trial counsel allegedly attempted to fabricate an alibi on the false testimony of petitioner’s girl friend. The evidence indicated that on several occasions before trial, the girl was invited to the office of petitioner’s attorney, given narcotics, and told to memorize certain false testimony to be used in petitioner’s defense. Later the girl bad a change of mind and agreed to testify for the government Despite the strenuous objections of defendant’s counsel, a description of this alleged fraud on the court was given in the prosecution’s opening statement, and the witness was permitted to testify. The defense attorney refused the court’s offer of additional counsel and proceeded to conduct the defense alone. Petitioner was convicted as charged in the indictment, whereupon, with the aid of new counsel appointed by the court, be filed a motion to vacate judgment There was no question on the admissibility of testimony showing the attempted fabrication of evidence. Yet the petitioner contended that this evidence so discredited his attorney in the eyes of the jury that be did not have the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments; therefore the court should have either advised him of his constitutional rights or, acting sua sponte, appointed other counsel in his behalf. The lower court rejected this line of argument On appeal, held, affirmed with one judge dissenting. The majority found that even if petitioner was prejudiced, be was in no position to say that the court should have rescued him from his own wrongdoing. Harvey v. United States, (D.C. Cir. 1954) 215 F. (2d) 330.