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Honduran Not Given Fair Trial, Justices Rule

(CN) - The lawyer who advised a Honduran immigrant to plead guilty to drug distribution charges failed to provide him with an adequate defense in violation of the Sixth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled.

In reversing the Kentucky Supreme Court's denial of a post-conviction hearing, the high court found in a 7-2 vote that Jose Padilla's attorney was "constitutionally deficient," and that his Sixth Amendment right to an effective counsel had been violated.

Padilla said that he would not be facing deportation if his attorney had not encouraged him to plead guilty, telling him that he "'did not need to worry about immigration status since he had been in the country so long.'"

Writing the court's opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "We agree with Padilla that constitutionally competent counsel would have advised him that his conviction for drug distribution made him subject to automatic deportation.

"The importance of accurate legal advice for non-citizens accused of crimes has never been more important," Stevens wrote.


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