Supreme Court weighs lawyers' actions in 2 death row cases
WASHINGTON - Seven years before Thomas Sims defended Sammie Stokes in a South Carolina death-penalty trial, he had prosecuted Stokes for assaulting his ex-wife.
The trial record shows Sims never told the judge in the murder case about that earlier prosecution, not even when the ex-wife took the stand against his client to recount the assault.
Stokes' case is one of two the Supreme Court is weighing in which death-row inmates are raising questions about the actions of their lawyers. In the other, James Tyler of Louisiana pleaded not guilty to the murder charge against him, but his lawyer conceded Tyler's guilt and did nothing to poke holes in eyewitness accounts that helped convict Tyler. The justices have yet to decide whether to hear either case, but word could come Monday.
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