State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Bradley Mittias Backman, Appellant.
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Deandre Jerome Barnes,
Filed July 24, 2001
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 44943
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael K. Walz, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Caroline Durham, Attorney at Law, 425 South Third Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his conviction of second-degree murder, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because he did not understand that he would actually serve 25 years in prison and was delusional at the time he entered his plea. Because we see no abuse of discretion, we affirm.FACTS
On May 9, 2000, appellant was indicted for first- and second-degree murder. Pursuant to a plea agreement, appellant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a negotiated sentence of 450 months. The district court accepted appellant's plea and ordered a presentence investigation and report.
On November 2, 2000, appellant moved to withdraw his guilty plea. The following day, he appeared for sentencing. The district court granted appellant's request for substitution of counsel, but denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and sentenced him to 450 months in prison. This appeal followed.D E C I S I O N
A reviewing court will reverse the district court's determination of whether to permit withdrawal of a guilty plea only if the district court abused its discretion. Barragan v. State, 583 N.W.2d 571, 572 (Minn. 1998). When credibility determinations are crucial in determining whether a guilty plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, "a reviewing court will give deference to the primary observations and trustworthiness assessments made by the district court." State v.Aviles-Alvarez, 561 N.W.2d 523, 527(Minn. App. 1997) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. June 11, 1997). "A criminal defendant has no absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea once entered." Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 685 (Minn. 1997) (citation omitted). Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05 provides:
Subd. 1. To Correct Manifest Injustice. The court shall allow a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice. Such a motion is not barred solely because it is made after sentence. If a defendant is allowed to withdraw a plea after sentence, the court shall set aside the judgment and the plea.
Subd. 2. Before Sentence. In its discretion the court may also allow the defendant to withdraw a plea at any time before sentence if it is fair and just to do so, giving due consideration to the reasons advanced by the defendant in support of the motion and any prejudice the granting of the motion would cause the prosecution by reason of actions taken in reliance upon the defendant's plea.
The "fair and just" standard does not entail an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing because
[i]f a guilty plea can be withdrawn for any reason or without good reason at any time before sentence is imposed, then the process of accepting guilty pleas would simply be a means of continuing the trial to some indefinite date in the future when the defendant might see fit to come in and make a motion to withdraw his plea.
Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. 1989) (quotation and citations omitted). The defendant bears the burden of proving that the reason for withdrawing the plea is fair and just. Id.
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. First, appellant contends that he did not understand that he would actually serve 25 years in prison; he believed that he would be sentenced to 25 years and receive time off for good behavior. The transcript of the plea hearing provides ample evidence that appellant was not only fully informed that his sentence would be a commitment to prison for a full 25 years and that the sentence was a durational departure from the sentencing guidelines, but also that he agreed to this sentence as part of the plea bargain. Appellant's counsel asked,
[T]here would be a durational departure from the Sentencing Guidelines such that the sentence that you would actually serve in this case for Second Degree Murder would be 25 years, do you understand that?
(Emphasis added.) To which appellant answered, "Yes." Appellant's counsel then asked, "And that's the plea negotiation that you want to take advantage of and enter a plea to today, correct?" To which appellant answered, "Yes."
Later in the plea proceedings, the following exchange took place between the prosecutor and appellant:
Prosecutor: And the piece of paper that you've signed, the plea agreement, that indicates that you would do 25 years in prison?
Prosecutor: You don't get a third off of that; that's 25 years that you actually will serve in prison, you understand that?
Prosecutor: So, we had to tabulate some additional time to get to that 25 years, but there's no question in your mind you're going to do 25 years in prison?
Appellant: ([Appellant] nodded.)
Appellant also contends, because he initially vacillated on the record about entering the plea, that he should now be allowed to withdraw it. But after further private discussions with his two attorneys, appellant decided to enter his plea on the record. Appellant's attorney stated that, although it was a difficult decision for appellant, "[appellant] indicates to me now that he is prepared to go ahead with the plea negotiation." The record reflects that appellant had sufficient time to discuss the terms of the plea agreement and his constitutional rights with his attorneys.
Appellant also argues that his mental state precluded him from making a knowing and intelligent guilty plea. "A valid guilty plea must meet three basic prerequisites': it must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent (i.e., knowingly and understandingly made)." Perkins, 559 N.W.2d at 688 (quoting State v. Trott, 338 N.W.2d 248, 251 (Minn. 1983)). "Manifest injustice occurs if a guilty plea is not accurate, voluntary, and intelligent * * * ." Id. Although appellant's initial written motion to withdraw his plea made no reference to his mental state, on appeal, appellant asserts that he "was delusional at the time he entered the plea."
Appellant places particular significance on the following exchange between himself and the prosecutor during the plea hearing:
Prosecutor: Do you have any questions of me?
Prosecutor: Ahmm, because I want to be real honest with you, Mr. Barnes, if for any reason you were to come back and want to change your mind, I will protest that, because you're under oath now and you've agreed to this negotiation. And if you've got any questions, now's the time to ask me.
Appellant: Are you Satan?
Appellant: Are you Satan?
Prosecutor: No, I'm not.
Prosecutor: Do you have any other questions?
Appellant: No, I don't.
Prosecutor: Do you know what you're doing today?
Appellant's psychological problems were specifically addressed at the plea hearing. Prior to entry of the plea on the record, counsel for appellant inquired as to his mental condition:
Attorney: [W]hile you've never been a patient in a mental hospital, you have been treated by a psychiatrist and a psychologist for a previous mental condition, right?
Attorney: And it was based on that information that Mr. Wilson and I asked the Court to order a psychological evaluation, what we call a Rule 20 evaluation, to see if you were competent to proceed and if you understood what's going on, true?
Attorney: Now, that report indicates that the doctor believes that you understand the nature of the proceedings and that you understand what's going on. Do you agree with that?
Attorney: All right. And also the form indicates that you've been taking some medications, specifically haldol and lithium, right?
Attorney: You've been given that while you've been held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of bond?
Attorney: You've been taking the medication while you've been in jail?
Attorney: They've been giving it to you, it's prescribed by a doctor?
Attorney: And that medication is for a nervous or mental condition, is it not?
Attorney: Does that medication help you understand what's going on and help you to control your thinking?
Attorney: And do you think that today you understand the implications of everything that's going on?
In a psychological evaluation conducted pursuant to rule 20 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, the examining psychologist concluded that, based on psychological testing, appellant seemed to be exaggerating his mental problems if not actually malingering. The psychologist also concluded that appellant was able to consult with a reasonable degree of rational understanding with defense counsel, that there was no evidence of a mental illness of such a nature that it compromised appellant's competency to proceed, and that appellant had the capacity to understand the criminal proceedings and to participate in his defense.
The district court based its decision on the presentence investigation report and recommendation of the probation officer, appellant's guilty plea negotiated by the parties with appellant's active participation, and the reports of the psychologist who examined appellant. The district court was in the best position to evaluate appellant's psychological issues and to determine whether he understood the proceedings. See State v. Lopez, 379 N.W.2d 633, 638 (Minn. App. 1986) (district court is in best position to judge credibility), review denied (Minn. Feb. 14, 1986). We conclude that there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of appellant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea.