|FLORIDA V. NIXON (03-931) 543 U.S. 175 (2004)
857 So. 2d 172, reversed and remanded.
[ Ginsburg ]
FLORIDA, PETITIONER v. JOE ELTON NIXON
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT
[December 13, 2004]
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.
This capital case concerns defense counsels strategic decision to concede, at the guilt phase of the trial, the defendants commission of murder, and to concentrate the defense on establishing, at the penalty phase, cause for sparing the defendants life. Any concession of that order, the Florida Supreme Court held, made without the defendants express consenthowever gruesome the crime and despite the strength of the evidence of guiltautomatically ranks as prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel necessitating a new trial. We reverse the Florida Supreme Courts judgment.
Defense counsel undoubtedly has a duty to discuss potential strategies with the defendant. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984). But when a defendant, informed by counsel, neither consents nor objects to the course counsel describes as the most promising means to avert a sentence of death, counsel is not automatically barred from pursuing that course. The reasonableness of counsels performance, after consultation with the defendant yields no response, must be judged in accord with the inquiry generally applicable to ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims: Did counsels representation f[a]ll below an objective standard of reasonableness? Id., at 688, 694. The Florida Supreme Court erred in applying, instead, a presumption of deficient performance, as well as a presumption of prejudice; that latter presumption, we have instructed, is reserved for cases in which counsel fails meaningfully to oppose the prosecutions case. United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 659 (1984). A presumption of prejudice is not in order based solely on a defendants failure to provide express consent to a tenable strategy counsel has adequately disclosed to and discussed with the defendant.
On Monday, August 13, 1984, near a dirt road in the environs of Tallahassee, Florida, a passing motorist discovered Jeanne Bickners charred body. Nixon v. State, 572 So. 2d 1336, 1337 (Fla. 1990) (Nixon I); 13 Record 24642466. Bickner had been tied to a tree and set on fire while still alive. Id., at 2475, 24832484. Her left leg and arm, and most of her hair and skin, had been burned away. Id., at 24752476. The next day, police found Bickners car, abandoned on a Tallahassee street corner, on fire. Id., at 2520. Police arrested 23-year-old Joe Elton Nixon later that morning, after Nixons brother informed the sheriffs office that Nixon had confessed to the murder. Id., at 2559.
Questioned by the police, Nixon described in graphic detail how he had kidnaped Bickner, then killed her.1 He recounted that he had approached Bickner, a stranger, in a mall, and asked her to help him jump-start his car. 5 id., at 919921. Bickner offered Nixon a ride home in her 1973 MG sports car. Id., at 922. Once on the road, Nixon directed Bickner to drive to a remote place; en route, he overpowered her and stopped the car. Id., at 924, 926927. Nixon next put Bickner in the MGs trunk, drove into a wooded area, removed Bickner from the car, and tied her to a tree with jumper cables. Id., at 930931. Bickner pleaded with Nixon to release her, offering him money in exchange. Id., at 928. Concerned that Bickner might identify him, Nixon decided to kill her. Id., at 929. He set fire to Bickners personal belongings and ignited her with burning objects. Id., at 934935. Nixon drove away in the MG, and later told his brother and girlfriend what he had done. Id., at 938, 961. He burned the MG on Tuesday, August 14, after reading in the newspaper that Bickners body had been discovered. Id., at 963, 982.
The State gathered overwhelming evidence establishing that Nixon had committed the murder in the manner he described. A witness saw Nixon approach Bickner in the malls parking lot on August 12, and observed Bickner taking jumper cables out of the trunk of her car and giving them to Nixon. 13 id., at 24472448, 2450. Several witnesses told police they saw Nixon driving around in the MG in the hours and days following Bickners death. See id., at 2456, 24872488; 2498; 2509. Nixons palm print was found on the trunk of the car. Id., at 25482549. Nixons girlfriend, Wanda Robinson, and his brother, John Nixon, both stated that Nixon told them he had killed someone and showed them two rings later identified as Bickners. 5 id., at 971, 987; 13 id., at 2565. According to Nixons brother, Nixon pawned the rings, 5 id., at 986, and attempted to sell the car, id., at 973. At a local pawnshop, police recovered the rings and a receipt for them bearing Nixons drivers license number; the pawnshop owner identified Nixon as the person who sold the rings to him. 13 id., at 25682569.
In late August 1984, Nixon was indicted in Leon County, Florida, for first-degree murder, kidnaping, robbery, and arson. See App. 1, 55. Assistant public defender Michael Corin, assigned to represent Nixon, see id., at 232, filed a plea of not guilty, id., at 468469, and deposed all of the States potential witnesses, id., at 5358. Corin concluded, given the strength of the evidence, that Nixons guilt was not subject to any reasonable dispute. Id., at 490.2 Corin thereupon commenced plea negotiations, hoping to persuade the prosecution to drop the death penalty in exchange for Nixons guilty pleas to all charges. Id., at 336338; 507. Negotiations broke down when the prosecutors indicated their unwillingness to recommend a sentence other than death. See id., at 339, 508.
Faced with the inevitability of going to trial on a capital charge, Corin turned his attention to the penalty phase, believing that the only way to save Nixons life would be to present extensive mitigation evidence centering on Nixons mental instability. Id., at 261, 473; see also id., at 102. Experienced in capital defense, see id., at 248250, Corin feared that denying Nixons commission of the kidnaping and murder during the guilt phase would compromise Corins ability to persuade the jury, during the penalty phase, that Nixons conduct was the product of his mental illness. See id., at 473, 490, 505. Corin concluded that the best strategy would be to concede guilt, thereby preserving his credibility in urging leniency during the penalty phase. Id., at 458, 505.
Corin attempted to explain this strategy to Nixon at least three times. Id., at 254255. Although Corin had represented Nixon previously on unrelated charges and the two had a good relationship in Corins estimation, see id., at 466467, Nixon was generally unresponsive during their discussions, id., at 478480. He never verbally approved or protested Corins proposed strategy. Id., at 234238; 255; 501. Overall, Nixon gave Corin very little, if any, assistance or direction in preparing the case, id., at 478, and refused to attend pretrial dispositions of various motions, Nixon I, 572 So. 2d, at 1341; App. 478. Corin eventually exercised his professional judgment to pursue the concession strategy. As he explained: There are many times lawyers make decisions because they have to make them because the client does nothing. Id., at 486.
When Nixons trial began on July 15, 1985, his unresponsiveness deepened into disruptive and violent behavior. On the second day of jury selection, Nixon pulled off his clothing, demanded a black judge and lawyer, refused to be escorted into the courtroom, and threatened to force the guards to shoot him. Nixon I, 572 So. 2d, at 1341; 10 Record 19341935. An extended on-the-record colloquy followed Nixons bizarre behavior, during which Corin urged the trial judge to explain Nixons rights to him and ascertain whether Nixon understood the significance of absenting himself from the trial. Corin also argued that restraining Nixon and compelling him to be present would prejudice him in the eyes of the jury. Id., at 19181920. When the judge examined Nixon on the record in a holding cell, Nixon stated he had no interest in the trial and threatened to misbehave if forced to attend. Id., at 19261931. The judge ruled that Nixon had intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to be present at trial. Id., at 1938; 11 id., at 2020.
The guilt phase of the trial thus began in Nixons absence.3 In his opening statement, Corin acknowledged Nixons guilt and urged the jury to focus on the penalty phase:
In this case, there wont be any question, none whatsoever, that my client, Joe Elton Nixon, caused Jeannie Bickners death . [T]hat fact will be proved to your satisfaction beyond any doubt.
This case is about the death of Joe Elton Nixon and whether it should occur within the next few years by electrocution or maybe its natural expiration after a lifetime of confinement.
Now, in arriving at your verdict, in your penalty recommendation, for we will get that far, you are going to learn many facts about Joe Elton Nixon. Some of those facts are going to be good. That may not seem clear to you at this time. But, and sadly, most of the things you learn of Joe Elton Nixon are not going to be good. But, Im suggesting to you that when you have seen all the testimony, heard all the testimony and the evidence that has been shown, there are going to be reasons why you should recommend that his life be spared. App. 7172.
During its case in chief, the State introduced the tape of Nixons confession, expert testimony on the manner in which Bickner died, and witness testimony regarding Nixons confessions to his relatives and his possession of Bickners car and personal effects. Corin cross-examined these witnesses only when he felt their statements needed clarification, see, e.g., 13 Record 2504, and he did not present a defense case, 20 id., at 3741. Corin did object to the introduction of crime scene photographs as unduly prejudicial, 13 id., at 2470, and actively contested several aspects of the jury instructions during the charge conference, 11 id., at 20502058. In his closing argument, Corin again conceded Nixons guilt, App. 73, and reminded the jury of the importance of the penalty phase: I will hope to argue to you and give you reasons not that Mr. Nixons life be spared one final and terminal confinement forever, but that he not be sentenced to die, id., at 74. The jury found Nixon guilty on all counts.
At the start of the penalty phase, Corin argued to the jury that Joe Elton Nixon is not normal organically, intellectually, emotionally or educationally or in any other way. Id., at 102. Corin presented the testimony of eight witnesses. Relatives and friends described Nixons childhood emotional troubles and his erratic behavior in the days preceding the murder. See, e.g., id., at 108120. A psychiatrist and a psychologist addressed Nixons antisocial personality, his history of emotional instability and psychiatric care, his low IQ, and the possibility that at some point he suffered brain damage. Id., at 143147; 162166. The State presented little evidence during the penalty phase, simply incorporating its guilt-phase evidence by reference, and introducing testimony, over Corins objection, that Nixon had removed Bickners underwear in order to terrorize her. Id., at 105106.
In his closing argument, Corin emphasized Nixons youth, the psychiatric evidence, and the jurys discretion to consider any mitigating circumstances, id., at 194199; Corin urged that, if not sentenced to death, Joe Elton Nixon would [n]ever be released from confinement, id., at 207. The death penalty, Corin maintained, was appropriate only for intact human being[s], and Joe Elton Nixon is not one of those. Hes never been one of those. He never will be one of those. Id., at 209. Corin concluded: You know, were not around here all that long. And its rare when we have the opportunity to give or take life. And you have that opportunity to give life. And Im going to ask you to do that. Thank you. Ibid. After deliberating for approximately three hours, the jury recommended that Nixon be sentenced to death. See 21 Record 4013.
In accord with the jurys recommendation, the trial court imposed the death penalty. Nixon I, 572 So. 2d, at 1338. Notably, at the close of the penalty phase, the court commended Corins performance during the trial, stating that the tactic employed by trial counsel was an excellent analysis of [the] reality of his case. 21 Record 4009. The evidence of guilt would have persuaded any jury beyond all doubt, and [f]or trial counsel to have inferred that Mr. Nixon was not guilty would have deprived [counsel] of any credibility during the penalty phase. Id., at 4010.
On direct appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, Nixon, represented by new counsel, argued that Corin had rendered ineffective assistance by conceding Nixons guilt without obtaining Nixons express consent. Nixon I, 572 So. 2d, at 13381339. Relying on United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984), new counsel urged that Corins concession should be presumed prejudicial because it left the prosecutions case unexposed to meaningful adversarial testing, id., at 658659. The Florida Supreme Court remanded for an evidentiary hearing on whether Nixon consented to the strategy, see App. 216217, but ultimately declined to rule on the matter, finding the evidence of Corins interactions with Nixon inconclusive. Nixon I, 572 So. 2d, at 1340.
In a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (1999), Nixon renewed his Cronic-based presumption of prejudice ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim.4 After the trial court rejected the claim, State v. Nixon, Case No. 842324 (Cir. Ct., Oct. 22, 1997), App. 389390, the Florida Supreme Court remanded for a further hearing on Nixons consent to defense counsels strategy. Nixon v. Singletary, 758 So. 2d 618, 625 (Fla. 2000) (Nixon II). Corins concession, according to the Florida Supreme Court, was the functional equivalent of a guilty plea in that it allowed the prosecutions guilt-phase case to proceed essentially without opposition. Id., at 622624. Under Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242243 (1969), a guilty plea cannot be inferred from silence; it must be based on express affirmations made intelligently and voluntarily. Similarly, the Florida Supreme Court stated, a concession of guilt at trial requires a defendants affirmative, explicit acceptance, without which counsels performance is presumptively inadequate. Nixon II, 758 So. 2d, at 624. The court acknowledged that Nixon was very disruptive and uncooperative at trial, and that counsels strategy may have been in Nixons best interest. Id., at 625. Nevertheless, the court firmly declared that [s]ilent acquiescence is not enough, id., at 624; counsel who concedes a defendants guilt is inevitably ineffective, the court ruled, if the defendant does not expressly approve counsels course, id., at 625.
On remand, Corin testified that he explained his view of the case to Nixon several times, App. 479480, and that at each consultation, Nixon did nothing affirmative or negative, id., at 481482; see also id., at 486487. Failing to elicit a definitive response from Nixon, Corin stated, he chose to pursue the concession strategy because, in his professional judgment, it appeared to be the only way to save [Nixons] life. Id., at 472. Nixon did not testify at the hearing. The trial court found that Nixons natural pattern of communication with Corin involved passively receiving information, and that Nixon consented to the strategy through his behavior. State v. Nixon, Case No. R842324AF (Fla. Cir. Ct., Sept. 20, 2001), p. 13, 2 Record 378.
Observing that no competent, substantial evidence establish[ed] that Nixon affirmatively and explicitly agreed to counsels strategy, the Florida Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. Nixon v. State, 857 So. 2d 172, 176 (Fla. 2003) (Nixon III) (emphasis in original). Three justices disagreed with the majoritys determination that Corins concession rendered his representation inadequate. Id., at 183 (Lewis, J., concurring in result); id., at 189 (Wells, J., joined by Shaw, S. J., dissenting).
We granted certiorari, 540 U.S. 1217 (2004), to resolve an important question of constitutional law, i.e., whether counsels failure to obtain the defendants express consent to a strategy of conceding guilt in a capital trial automatically renders counsels performance deficient, and whether counsels effectiveness should be evaluated under Cronic or Strickland. We now reverse the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court.
An attorney undoubtedly has a duty to consult with the client regarding important decisions, including questions of overarching defense strategy. Strickland, 466 U.S., at 688. That obligation, however, does not require counsel to obtain the defendants consent to every tactical decision. Taylor v. Illinois, 484 U.S. 400, 417418 (1988) (an attorney has authority to manage most aspects of the defense without obtaining his clients approval). But certain decisions regarding the exercise or waiver of basic trial rights are of such moment that they cannot be made for the defendant by a surrogate. A defendant, this Court affirmed, has the ultimate authority to determine whether to plead guilty, waive a jury, testify in his or her own behalf, or take an appeal. Jones v. Barnes, 463 U.S. 745, 751 (1983); Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 93, n. 1 (1977) (Burger, C. J., concurring). Concerning those decisions, an attorney must both consult with the defendant and obtain consent to the recommended course of action.
A guilty plea, we recognized in Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969), is an event of signal significance in a criminal proceeding. By entering a guilty plea, a defendant waives constitutional rights that inhere in a criminal trial, including the right to trial by jury, the protection against self-incrimination, and the right to confront ones accusers. Id., at 243. While a guilty plea may be tactically advantageous for the defendant, id., at 240, the plea is not simply a strategic choice; it is itself a conviction, id., at 242, and the high stakes for the defendant require the utmost solicitude, id., at 243. Accordingly, counsel lacks authority to consent to a guilty plea on a clients behalf, Brookhart v. Janis, 384 U.S. 1, 67 (1966); moreover, a defendants tacit acquiescence in the decision to plead is insufficient to render the plea valid, Boykin, 395 U.S., at 242.
The Florida Supreme Court, as just observed, see supra, at 9, required Nixons affirmative, explicit acceptance of Corins strategy because it deemed Corins statements to the jury the functional equivalent of a guilty plea. Nixon II, 758 So. 2d, at 624. We disagree with that assessment.
Despite Corins concession, Nixon retained the rights accorded a defendant in a criminal trial. Cf. Boykin, 395 U.S., at 242243, and n. 4 (a guilty plea is more than a confession which admits that the accused did various acts, it is a stipulation that no proof by the prosecution need be advanced). The State was obliged to present during the guilt phase competent, admissible evidence establishing the essential elements of the crimes with which Nixon was charged. That aggressive evidence would thus be separated from the penalty phase, enabling the defense to concentrate that portion of the trial on mitigating factors. See supra, at 4, 7. Further, the defense reserved the right to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution and could endeavor, as Corin did, to exclude prejudicial evidence. See supra, at 6. In addition, in the event of errors in the trial or jury instructions, a concession of guilt would not hinder the defendants right to appeal.
Nixon nevertheless urges, relying on Brookhart v. Janis, that this Court has already extended the requirement of affirmative, explicit acceptance to proceedings surrender[ing] the right to contest the prosecutions factual case on the issue of guilt or innocence. Brief for Respondent 32. Defense counsel in Brookhart had agreed to a prima facie bench trial at which the State would be relieved of its obligation to put on complete proof of guilt or persuade a jury of the defendants guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 384 U.S., at 56. In contrast to Brookhart, there was in Nixons case no truncated proceeding, id., at 6, shorn of the need to persuade the trier beyond a reasonable doubt, and of the defendants right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. While the prima facie trial in Brookhart was fairly characterized as the equivalent of a guilty plea, id., at 7, the full presentation to the jury in Nixons case does not resemble that severely abbreviated proceeding. Brookhart, in short, does not carry the weight Nixon would place on it.
Corin was obliged to, and in fact several times did, explain his proposed trial strategy to Nixon. See supra, at 4, 9. Given Nixons constant resistance to answering inquiries put to him by counsel and court, see Nixon III, 857 So. 2d, at 187188 (Wells, J., dissenting), Corin was not additionally required to gain express consent before conceding Nixons guilt. The two evidentiary hearings conducted by the Florida trial court demonstrate beyond doubt that Corin fulfilled his duty of consultation by informing Nixon of counsels proposed strategy and its potential benefits. Nixons characteristic silence each time information was conveyed to him, in sum, did not suffice to render unreasonable Corins decision to concede guilt and to home in, instead, on the life or death penalty issue.
The Florida Supreme Courts erroneous equation of Corins concession strategy to a guilty plea led it to apply the wrong standard in determining whether counsels performance ranked as ineffective assistance. The court first presumed deficient performance, then applied the presumption of prejudice that United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984), reserved for situations in which counsel has entirely failed to function as the clients advocate. The Florida court therefore did not hold Nixon to the standard prescribed in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), which would have required Nixon to show that counsels concession strategy was unreasonable. As Florida Supreme Court Justice Lewis observed, that courts majority misunderstood Cronic and failed to attend to the realities of defending against a capital charge. Nixon III, 857 So. 2d, at 180183 (opinion concurring in result).
Cronic recognized a narrow exception to Stricklands holding that a defendant who asserts ineffective assistance of counsel must demonstrate not only that his attorneys performance was deficient, but also that the deficiency prejudiced the defense. Cronic instructed that a presumption of prejudice would be in order in circumstances that are so likely to prejudice the accused that the cost of litigating their effect in a particular case is unjustified. 466 U.S., at 658. The Court elaborated: [I]f counsel entirely fails to subject the prosecutions case to meaningful adversarial testing, then there has been a denial of Sixth Amendment rights that makes the adversary process itself presumptively unreliable. Id., at 659; see Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 696697 (2002) (for Cronics presumed prejudice standard to apply, counsels failure must be complete). We illustrated just how infrequently the surrounding circumstances [will] justify a presumption of ineffectiveness in Cronic itself. In that case, we reversed a Court of Appeals ruling that ranked as prejudicially inadequate the performance of an inexperienced, under-prepared attorney in a complex mail fraud trial. 466 U.S., at 662, 666.
On the record thus far developed, Corins concession of Nixons guilt does not rank as a fail[ure] to function in any meaningful sense as the Governments adversary. Ibid.5 Although such a concession in a run-of-the-mine trial might present a closer question, the gravity of the potential sentence in a capital trial and the proceedings two-phase structure vitally affect counsels strategic calculus. Attorneys representing capital defendants face daunting challenges in developing trial strategies, not least because the defendants guilt is often clear. Prosecutors are more likely to seek the death penalty, and to refuse to accept a plea to a life sentence, when the evidence is overwhelming and the crime heinous. See Goodpaster, The Trial for Life: Effective Assistance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, 58 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 299, 329 (1983).6 In such cases, avoiding execution [may be] the best and only realistic result possible. ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases §10.9.1, Commentary (rev. ed. 2003), reprinted in 31 Hofstra L. Rev. 913, 1040 (2003).
Counsel therefore may reasonably decide to focus on the trials penalty phase, at which time counsels mission is to persuade the trier that his clients life should be spared. Unable to negotiate a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, defense counsel must strive at the guilt phase to avoid a counterproductive course. See Lyon, Defending the Death Penalty Case: What Makes Death Different?, 42 Mercer L. Rev. 695, 708 (1991) (It is not good to put on a he didnt do it defense and a he is sorry he did it mitigation. This just does not work. The jury will give the death penalty to the client and, in essence, the attorney.); Sundby, The Capital Jury and Absolution: The Intersection of Trial Strategy, Remorse, and the Death Penalty, 83 Cornell L. Rev. 1557, 15891591 (1998) (interviews of jurors in capital trials indicate that juries approach the sentencing phase cynically where counsels sentencing-phase presentation is logically inconsistent with the guilt-phase defense); id., at 1597 (in capital cases, a run-of-the-mill strategy of challenging the prosecutions case for failing to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt can have dire implications for the sentencing phase). In this light, counsel cannot be deemed ineffective for attempting to impress the jury with his candor and his unwillingness to engage in a useless charade. See Cronic, 466 U.S., at 656657, n. 19. Renowned advocate Clarence Darrow, we note, famously employed a similar strategy as counsel for the youthful, cold-blooded killers Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. Imploring the judge to spare the boys lives, Darrow declared: I do not know how much salvage there is in these two boys. I will be honest with this court as I have tried to be from the beginning. I know that these boys are not fit to be at large. Attorney for the Damned: Clarence Darrow in the Courtroom 84 (A. Weinberg ed. 1989); see Tr. of Oral Arg. 4041 (Darrows clients did not expressly consent to what he did. But he saved their lives.); cf. Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 910 (2003) (per curiam).
To summarize, in a capital case, counsel must consider in conjunction both the guilt and penalty phases in determining how best to proceed. When counsel informs the defendant of the strategy counsel believes to be in the defendants best interest and the defendant is unresponsive, counsels strategic choice is not impeded by any blanket rule demanding the defendants explicit consent. Instead, if counsels strategy, given the evidence bearing on the defendants guilt, satisfies the Strickland standard, that is the end of the matter; no tenable claim of ineffective assistance would remain.
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
The Chief Justice took no part in the decision of this case.
1. Although Nixon initially stated that he kidnaped Bickner on August 11, the kidnaping and murder in fact occurred on Sunday, August 12, 1984. 20 Record 37683770.
2. Every court to consider this case, including the judge who presided over Nixons trial, agreed with Corins assessment of the evidence. See, e.g., Nixon v. Singletary, 758 So. 2d 618, 625 (Fla. 2000) (per curiam) (evidence of guilt was overwhelming); State v. Nixon, Case No. 842324 (Fla. Cir. Ct., Oct. 22, 1997), App. 385; 21 Record 40094010.
3. Except for a brief period during the second day of the trial, Nixon remained absent throughout the proceedings. See Nixon v. State, 572 So. 2d 1336, 13411342 (Fla. 1990); Brief for Petitioner 6, n. 8.
4. Nixon contended in the alternative that Corins decision to concede guilt was unreasonable and prejudicial under the generally applicable standard set out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). App. 385, 389; see supra, at 12. Nixon also raised several other challenges to his conviction and sentence. See App. 378384; 390392.
5. In his brief before this Court, Nixon describes inconsistencies in the States evidence at the guilt phase of the trial. See Brief for Respondent 1322. Corins failure to explore these inconsistencies, measured against the Strickland standard, 466 U.S., at 690, Nixon maintains, constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Florida Supreme Court did not address the alleged inconsistencies and we decline to consider the matter in the first instance.
6. As Corin determined here, pleading guilty without a guarantee that the prosecution will recommend a life sentence holds little if any benefit for the defendant. See ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases §10.9.2, Commentary (rev. ed. 2003), reprinted in 31 Hofstra L. Rev. 913, 1045 (2003) (If no written guarantee can be obtained that death will not be imposed following a plea of guilty, counsel should be extremely reluctant to participate in a waiver of the clients trial rights.). Pleading guilty not only relinquishes trial rights, it increases the likelihood that the State will introduce aggressive evidence of guilt during the sentencing phase, so that the gruesome details of the crime are fresh in the jurors minds as they deliberate on the sentence. See Goodpaster, The Trial for Life: Effective Assistance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, 58 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 299, 331 (1983); supra, at 7, 11.