An estimated 95% of criminal charges are resolved through plea bargains, so an incompetent lawyer at the plea stage can harm his client just as much as an attorney who bungles a trial. The Supreme Court has been asked to restore the terms of plea bargains that two defendants did not accept because of lawyer malpractice. The cases give the justices an opportunity to enforce fairness in the legal system at every level.
In 2007, Galin E. Frye was charged by the state of Missouri with driving with a revoked license, a felony because he had several previous convictions. The district attorney offered Frye's lawyer a plea bargain under which Frye would serve only 90 days in prison. The lawyer, however, didn't inform Frye of the offer, and Frye ultimately pleaded guilty and received a three-year sentence.
The second case stemmed from a 2003 incident in which Anthony Cooper shot a woman in her buttock and thighs, causing serious injuries. Prosecutors offered Cooper's lawyers a plea deal in which he would serve a minimum sentence of 51 to 85 months. Cooper turned down the offer because his attorney inaccurately (and bizarrely) told him that he couldn't be convicted of intent to murder because his victim was shot below the waist. Cooper went to trial, was convicted and was sentenced to 185 to 360 months.