Sunday, March 20, 2005

US v. Garcia

No. 04-30172 (3-16-05). What is a "fair and just" reason to get out of a guilty plea? Is it a change in the law? We have that here. Is it newly discovered evidence? We have that here. Is it voluntariness? Well, we sort of have that here. The district court however said "no". The defendant was charged in a drug/gun conspiracy and was facing a life sentence. The evidence was an informant and weapons found at his home. His defense was that the drugs and guns belonged to others. To limit his exposure, he grudgingly accepted a plea. Indeed, it was amazing that the gov't and the court let him say that he was admitting the facts only to limit his exposure. He did say that he was guilty (grumble grumble). Well, after the plea, and before sentencing, the 9th came out with US v. Wenner, 351 F.3d 969 (9th Cir. 2003), which operated, according to defendant, to disqualify him as a career offender (oh yes, I forgot to mention he was also that). In addition, defendant submitted an affidavit from a previous resident of the home who said that the guns and rugs belonged to two transients that had just recently moved in. The 9th considered these factors to be "fair and just" reasons for withdrawing, stressing that the standard is a "liberal" one and should be broadly construed. The district court erred in finding there was delay (there wasn't bad faith), and that there was a change in the law. In addition, the district court should have considered the new evidence. Finally, the plea may have been voluntary, but the circumstances were such that justice might be better served letting him withdraw.


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