April 20, 2014
A three-judge federal appeals court panel has freed a man who claimed his lawyers betrayed him during proceedings that led to a 1992 sentence to double life terms in prison for a Reno-area murder.
The majority ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel favored Lary James Plumlee, who said his constitutional right to counsel was violated and that public defenders leaked information about his case to another suspect and to prosecutors.
Circuit Judge Betty Fletcher wrote that Plumlee, convicted of the armed robbery and murder of Wilbur Beard, had a, "reasonable perception" that he had been betrayed by two Washoe County defenders. She said that led to an obvious conflict that deprived him of meaningful legal assistance.
Circuit Judge Carlos Bea dissented, saying the majority ruling creates an overly broad rule that will encourage defendants to, "imagine a slew of conspiracies between their appointed counsel, the prosecution, or even the trial courts."