Fifth Amendment Rights When Pleading Guilty?

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether a guilty plea waives the protections against self-incrimination in the penalty phase.
     Robert Woodall had pleaded guilty to capital murder, capital kidnapping and first-degree rape in connection to the 1997 death of a 16-year-old girl.
     Police had found the teenager’s body naked and floating in a lake about a half-mile from the convenience store she had been trying to visit on the night she disappeared.
     Though her throat was slashed twice and her windpipe was totally severed, her actual cause of death was drowning.
     At the penalty phase, Woodall asked the Kentucky trial judge to instruct the jury that it should not draw any adverse inference from his decision not to testify.
     The judge concluded, however, that Woodall waived his right to be free from self-incrimination by pleading guilty. He later adopted the jury’s recommendations to sentence Woodall to death for the murder conviction, and two consecutive life sentences for the other charges.
     Though the state courts affirmed, a federal judge found that Woodall qualified for habeas relief on two grounds: a violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and a constitutional error during jury selection.
     The latter violation stemmed from Kentucky use a peremptory challenge to strike a black juror jury without holding a hearing.
     A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit affirmed in July 2012.
     Per its custom, the Supreme Court issued no comment in granting the state’s petition for certiorari Thursday.
     Woodall can proceed in forma pauperis.

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