Edgar Coker, at the age of 15, pleaded guilty to rape and burglary after his Stafford, Virginia attorney failed to provide reasonably competent representation. Coker, now 22, has had his conviction vacated and is making efforts to clear his name.
Though the help of lawyers and law students and the University of Virginia's legal clinic, Coker's conviction was vacated in 2009. Soon after, the clinic helped Coker make a claim against his former attorney, Denise M. Rafferty. It was found that Rafferty's did, in fact, fail to provide reasonably competent representation for Coker. It was discovered that there was little to no independent investigation of the facts of the case before advising Coker to take a guilty plea. Rafferty failed to discover a recorded interview where Coker where made largely exculpatory statements that would have shown that Coker had cognitive restrictions. Furthermore, Rafferty failed to discover Coker's school records which would have supported suggestions of cognitive restrictions. Finally, Rafferty failed to discover a recorded statement of the girl that could have bolstered Coker's case. It was found that had Rafferty conducted a reasonably competent investigation, Rafferty would have seen that Coker had a case to be made and that she should not have advised him to plead guilty.
These types of cases show just how important it is to have competent criminal defense. Many criminal defense attorneys fail to take juvenile criminal cases seriously because they are not in a "court of record," and thus, the proceedings are more casual. The attorneys at Portner & Shure always give juvenile criminal defendants the same type of quality and experienced representation they would give to adult criminal clients.