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Godinez v. Moran

Case Name
Godinez v. Moran
509 U.S. 389
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
Clarence Thomas
Judge(s) - Majority
William Rehnquist, Byron White, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy
Judge(s) - Concur
Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy
Judge(s) - Dissent
Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
9th Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant shot and killed four people. Defendant also tried, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide. Later, Defendant called police to his hospital bed and confessed to the four murders. Defendant pleaded not guilty to the murders and was evaluated by two psychiatrists who concluded he was competent to stand trial. Defendant later appeared in court and stated that he wished to discharge his counsel and change his pleas to guilty. Defendant specifically stated he wanted to discharge his counsel to prevent mitigating evidence from being introduced at his sentencing. The court accepted his guilty pleas. A three-judge panel sentenced him to death for the murders. Defendant later filed a petition for post-conviction relief in state court. The state court rejected his claims that he was not competent to represent himself, finding he had been found competent to stand trial. The Supreme Court of Nevada dismissed his appeal. Defendant then filed a habeas petition in federal court. The District Court dismissed his petition, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that competency to waive constitutional rights is higher than the competency to stand trial. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the competency to waive constitutional rights, such as the right to trial and to counsel, is the same as the competency to stand trial. Defendant’s waiver of his rights was voluntary, knowing, and intelligent.

Key Quote

“[W]e can conceive of no basis for demanding a higher level of competence for those defendants who choose to plead guilty. If the Dusky standard is adequate for defendants who plead not guilty, it is necessarily adequate for those who plead guilty.” p.399