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Competency to Waive Appeals

Appellate review of a felony conviction is a constitutional right. The validity of a relinquishment of this or any other constitutional right rests on whether the waiver is made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. There are two distinct arenas where waivers of appeals are encountered: plea bargains in criminal cases and death-sentenced inmates “volunteering” for execution. Though waivers of appellate review in plea bargains are legally complex, they are not philosophically, ethically, or forensically problematic. This is largely because the defendant makes an election that, viewed from both subjective and external perspectives, is in his self-interest. A waiver of appellate review by a death-sentenced inmate, however, is fraught with philosophical and ethical dilemmas, as well as forensic evaluation ambiguities. This situation is compounded because the U.S. ...

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