Pleas & Plea Negotiations in NC Superior Court Jessica Smith, School of Government, UNC-Chapel Hill N.C. Conference of Superior Court Judges June 2005. 2,887 69,649. 2,887 69,649. # of criminal cases by jury trial # of criminal cases by guilty plea. Types of pleas not guilty
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Jessica Smith, School of Government, UNC-Chapel Hill
N.C. Conference of Superior Court Judges
# of criminal cases by jury trial
# of criminal cases by guilty plea
fact that D pled not guilty may not be considered @ sentencing
Cannon, 326 N.C. 37 (after negotiations broke down & D demanded a jury trial, judge said that if convicted, D would get maximum sentence)
Peterson, 154 N.C. App. 515 (sentencing judge said D “rolled the dice in a high stakes game” & lost the “gamble”)
Pavone, 104 N.C. App. 442 (noting the negotiations broke down, judge said “having moved through the jury process & having been convicted . . . you are in a different posture.”).
“Our holding does not mean that a trial judge must accept every constitutionally valid guilty plea merely because a defendant wishes to so plead. A criminal defendant does not have an absolute right under the Constitution to have his guilty plea accepted by the court, although the States may by statute or otherwise confer such a right.”
DURING PLEA NEGOTIATIONS, PROSECUTOR THREATENS THAT IF D DOESN’T PLEAD GUILTY, MORE SERIOUS CHARGES WILL BE INSTITUTED.
IS THAT PERMISSIBLE?
SUPPOSE D PLEADS NOT GUILTY & THE PROSECUTOR CARRIES OUT THE THREAT.
IS THAT PERMISSIBLE?
Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357.
D PLEADS GUILTY TO A MISD. IN DISTRICT COURT UNDER A PLEA ARRANGEMENT IN WHICH OTHER MISD. CHARGES ARE DISMISSED. D APPEALS FOR TRIAL DE NOVO. THE PROSECUTOR WANTS YOU TO TRY ALLOF THE ORIGINAL MISDEMEANOR CHARGES.
D PLEADS GUILTY TO A MISD. IN DISTRICT COURT UNDER A PLEA ARRANGEMENT WHICH REDUCED A FELONY CHARGE. D APPEALS FOR TRIAL DE NOVO. THE PROSECUTOR HAS INDICTED ON THE ORIGINAL FELONY CHARGE & IS PREPARED TO TRY THAT CHARGE.
For authority to try all of the original misd. charges, see GS 7A-271(b); 15A-1431(b).
For authority to try the felony, see State v. Fox, 34 NC App 576.
“If at the time of sentencing, the judge . . . determines to impose a sentence other than provided for in a plea arrangement between the parties, the judge must inform the defendant of that fact and inform the defendant that he may withdraw his plea.”
A PLEA AGREEMENT PROVIDES THAT D WILL RECEIVE A SENTENCE OF 151-191 MONTHS. THE SENTENCING JUDGE IMPOSES 133-169 MONTHS. D APPEALS, SAYING HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO WITHDRAW HIS PLEA. IS HE RIGHT?
State v. Wall, __ NC App __ (Dec. 7, 2004), held that the phrase “other than that provided for in a plea arrangement” includes sentences that are lighterthan those agreed to.
A NEGOTIATED PLEA HASN’T YET BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE COURT. PURSUANT TO IT, THE PROSECUTOR HAS DISMISSED CHARGES & D HAS PROVIDED DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT HIS INVOLVEMENT & THE INVOLVEMENT OF OTHERS.
CAN D BACK OUT? CAN THE PROSECUTOR BACK OUT? WHAT RULES APPLY?
The state may withdraw at any time before actual entry of the plea or before there is an act of detrimental reliance by D. D is free to withdraw before entry of the plea, regardless of any prejudice to the prosecution.
THE STATE HAS BREACHED A PLEA AGREEMENT.
WHAT REMEDIES ARE AVAILABLE?
WHAT FACTORS SHOULD YOU CONSIDER IN DETERMINING THE REMEDY?
When the State breaches, the remedies are specific performance or allowing withdrawal of the plea.
Santobello, 404 US 257.
“[Defendant]’s guilty plea would indeed be invalid if he had not been aware of the nature of the charges against him, including the elements of the aggravated murder charge to which he pleaded guilty”
D PLED GUILTY TO 1st DEGREE MURDER & 3 FELONIES. ON APPEAL HE ARGUES THE JUDGE FAILED TO INFORM HIM OF A DIRECT CONSEQUENCE OF HIS PLEA: THAT BECAUSE HE WAS PLEADING GUILTY TO 1st DEGREE P & D MURDER, HIS PLEAS TO THE FELONIES OTHER THAN MURDER WOULD ESTABLISH AGG. CIRCUMSTANCES AT THE CAPITAL SENTENCING PHASE. IS HE RIGHT?
“Nothing is automatic or predicable about how a . . . jury may weigh these aggravating circumstances or whether countervailing mitigating circumstances will be offered or how they will be weighed.”
D CHALLENGES A PLEA ON APPEAL, ALLEGING HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE RIGHTS WAIVED BY THE PLEA. ALTHOUGH THE TRANSCRIPT OF PLEA FORM IS COMPLETED PERFECTLY, THE VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT REVEALS THAT THE TRIAL JUDGE FAILED TO ADDRESS D PERSONALLY. DOES D WIN ON APPEAL?
“our legislature's explicit reference to the trial judge addressing [D] personally and informing him of his rights illustrates that reliance on the transcript of plea alone (with which the judge has no involvement in the first place) is insufficient to meet section 15A-1022’s procedural requirements.”
AFTER D PLEADS NOT GUILTY, JUDGE TELLS DEFENSE COUNSEL THAT HE THINKS THE JURY WILL CONVICT AND IF SO, HE’LL BE INCLINED TO GIVE A LONG SENTENCE. THEREAFTER D CHANGES HIS PLEA TO GUILTY.
WAS THE PLEA VOLUNTARY?
AS PART OF A PLEA AGREEMENT, D STIPULATES TO MINIMUM & MAXIMUM TERMS OF IMPRISONMENT. AT SENTENCING THE STATE DOES NOT PRODUCE EVIDENCE SUPPORTING D’S PRIOR RECORD LEVEL. D IS SENTENCED TO THE STIPULATED TERMS. D CHALLENGES PRL ON APPEAL. DOES HE WIN?
Holding that stipulation as to minimum & maximum terms without accompanying stipulation as to PRL doesn’t relieve the state of its burden to prove PRL
Note that if D admits to PRL & agrees to a specified sentencing range as part of the plea, D cannot later challenge PRL
D1 & D2 HAVE ENTERED GUILTY PLEAS. D1 MOVES TO WITHDRAW THE PLEA BEFORE SENTENCING. D2 DOES SO AFTER SENTENCING.
WHAT STANDARDS APPLY?
Withdrawal before sentencing should be allowed for any “fair and just reason”
State v. Handy, 326 N.C. 532 (fair and just reason existed; D asserted innocence, sought to withdraw within 24 hours & felt pressured to plead; state did not argue prejudice)
State v. Deal, 99 N.C. App. 456 (D had a basic misunderstanding as to the result of the plea would be; D had low intellectual abilities & misunderstood the plea process; 4 month time lag; state did not argue prejudice).
WHEN D PLED GUILTY, JUDGE QUESTIONED D & LAWYERS ABOUT A PLEA AGREEMENT & NONE WAS REVEALED. THE PLEA FORM WAS COMPLETED & A VERBATIM RECORD MADE. D NOW ASSERTS THAT COUNSEL SAID “JUST ANSWER THE JUDGE’S QUESTIONS, THE STATE HAS AGREED THAT YOU’LL ONLY GET 48 MONTHS.” D GOT 64 MONTHS. WILL THE PLEA STAND?
If the record unambiguously reveals that the judge scrupulously followed proper plea procedures, D representations at the time of the plea constitute a “formidable barrier” in any collateral challenge to the plea; a contention that those representations were false will entitle a defendant to an evidentiary hearing only in the most extraordinary circumstances.
SeeBlackledge, 431 U.S. 63; see alsoDickens, 299 NC 76.
D PLED GUILTY 20 YEARS AGO. HE IS NOW CHALLENGING HIS PLEA, ARGUING THAT HE WAS NEVER TOLD OF HIS RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL. THE FILE HAS BEEN DESTROYED, AS PART OF NORMAL RECORD DESTRUCTION PROCEDURES. WHAT KEY PRESUMPTION APPLIES HERE?
This presumption--that the acts of the court were properly done absent “ample evidence to the contrary”—applies when a D collaterally attacks a guilty plea.
See Parke, 506 US 20; Bass, 133 NC App. 646.
“The acme of judicial distinction means the ability to look a lawyer straight in the eyes for two hours and not to hear a damned word he says.”
JOHN C. MARSHALL
American chief justice and statesman(1755 - 1835)