Our Attorney successfully litigated a defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The defendant pleaded guilty to so much of a second-degree murder indictment that alleged manslaughter in the Suffolk County Superior Court. Apparently recognizing weaknesses in the case, the Commonwealth recommended that the defendant be sentenced to ten to eleven years in state prison. Prior to the plea hearing the defendant was aware that a witness had recanted his statement. However, during the plea hearing the prosecutor stated that a number of witnesses had recanted their statements. The defendant, uncertain as to what witnesses the prosecutor was referring to, inquired about the number of witnesses that actually changed their statements. The defendant secured a copy of the transcript from the plea hearing and pursued his claim.
Post conviction investigation revealed that one of the main witnesses for the Commonwealth informed a victim witness advocate that she had lied in the grand jury. Affidavits and witness testimony proved that this information was NEVER forwarded to the defendant or his attorney prior to the plea hearing. Following the hearing, the motion judge allowed the defendant’s motion finding that the Commonwealth had not produced exculpatory evidence.
Depending on the circumstance of a case, a defendant may argue that a guilty plea was not voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently tendered because he or she was not aware of exculpatory evidence prior to the hearing. In this case, the exculpatory evidence was the witness’ statement that she lied in the grand jury. The United States Supreme Court has held that a guilty plea must be intelligently made because a waiver of Constitutional rights not only must be voluntary but must be knowing, intelligent acts done with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences. See, Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742 (1970) [The issue of an intelligent waiver by the defendant is inextricably tied to the knowledge that he had at the time he pleaded guilty]; Commonwealth v. Correa, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 714 (1997); Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487 (1962); M.R.Crim.Proc. Rule 12; 43 C M.G.L.A.. [With respect to the voluntariness of the defendant’s plea, the court may consider whether coercion, deception, duress, improper inducements or trickery played a part in the defendant’s decision to plead guilty]; Huot v. Commonwealth, 363 Mass. 91, 96 (1973); Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 493 (1962) [A guilty plea is void if it is involuntary and unintelligent for any reason]. It is also well settled law in Massachusetts that the prosecutor has a continuing duty to disclose exculpatory evidence. Commonwealth v. Lam Hue To, 391 Mass. 301 (1984). Thus, if a defendant has grounds to claim that he or she was not given information that would have effected his or her decision to plead guilty, a viable motion to withdraw the plea should be filed in the appropriate cases.
Our Attorney is a Boston attorney with over twenty years experience in criminal law. Our Attorney has successfully vacated guilty pleas on a number of grounds and successfully litigated motions for new trials. If you are looking for an experienced attorney to defend you at any phase of litigation contact Our Attorney on-line or and she will get to work on your case immediately.