Wheeler v. StateAnnotate this Case
A district court “participates” in a plea bargaining negotiation (see State v. Johnson, 156 N.W.2d 218 (Minn. 1968) when it provides unsolicited comments regarding the propriety of the parties’ competing settlement offers. When a defendant successfully challenges the validity of a guilty plea because of the district court’s participation, the plea is only invalid if it was involuntary under the totality of the circumstances.
The district court in Appellant’s case made unsolicited comments about the propriety of the parties’ competing settlement offers before the parties reached an agreement for the court to accept or reject. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging that the court’s participation in the plea negotiations made her plea invalid and required a remedy of automatic plea vacated. The postconviction court disagreed and denied relief. The court of appeals affirmed. Because the law in existence at the time Appellant filed her postconviction petition did not require a defendant to establish that her guilty plea was involuntary, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the district court to give Appellant an opportunity to amend her postconviction petition in light of the holdings announced today.