California v. FloresAnnotate this Case
During his trial for the attempted murder of a police officer, defendant Roberto Flores repeatedly objected to his counsel's decision to admit Flores was driving the car that seriously injured the officer. In his professional judgment, counsel elected to concede the act of driving and instead assert that Flores never formed the premeditated intent to kill necessary for first degree murder. Similarly at a subsequent trial on weapons possession charges, Flores objected when his counsel decided to concede that Flores possessed certain firearms, instead arguing that the possession was not "knowing" because Flores did not understand the prohibited nature of the weapons. On appeal, Flores asked the Court of Appeal to reverse his two convictions, asserting that under McCoy v. Louisiana 138 S.Ct. 1500 (2018), it was structural error for counsel to take a factual position at odds with Flores's insistence that he did not commit the criminal acts alleged by the prosecution. Among other arguments, the State contended the disagreement between Flores and his lawyer amounted to a strategic dispute about how to best achieve an acquittal - traditionally the province of counsel - rather than an intractable conflict about Flores's goal of maintaining his factual innocence of the charged crimes. Based on its reading of McCoy, the Court of Appeal was unable to characterize Flores' statements as presenting a "mere dispute" over trial strategy where counsel's judgment trumped that of the client's. "The record before us demonstrates that counsel overrode Flores's stated goal of maintaining his innocence of the alleged acts. Instead, in pursuit of the understandable objective of achieving an acquittal, he conceded the actus reus of the charged crimes at both trials. Although any reasonable lawyer might agree with counsel's judgment, McCoy instructs that this is a decision for the client to make. Accordingly, we reverse."