Thursday, January 05, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 2

Summary of Decision January 5, 2012

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Kruger v. State of Wyoming

Citation:  2012 WY 2

Docket Number: S-11-0133

Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County, the Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge.

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Public Defender Program.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Justin A. Daraie, Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: January 5, 2012

Facts: The appellant was charged with: (1) felony child abuse in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-503(a) and (2) a misdemeanor count of endangering children in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-4-403(b)(iv).  After a mental evaluation found him competent, the appellant entered a plea of guilty to felony child abuse.  Although the appellant entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge at the same time, it was later dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement.  Also, a criminal citation relating to being under the influence of a controlled substance involving the same series of events was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.  At the scheduled sentencing the appellant sought to withdraw the guilty plea.  The district court denied the motion. 

Issues:  The appellant raises one issue:  Whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying [Appellant’s] motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The State raises two issues:  Whether the district court arbitrarily applied the “assertion of innocence” factor of the seven-factor Frame test, in deciding that the appellant could not withdraw his guilty plea, and whether that decision was otherwise reasonable. Whether the district court, by its actions and oral pronouncements, accepted the appellant’s guilty plea and deferred only its acceptance of the plea agreement, so that the appellant was entitled to withdraw his plea only upon a showing of just cause.

Holdings: In deciding whether the district court abused its discretion, the Court concluded that the trial court could reasonably conclude as it did and whether any facet of its ruling was arbitrary or capricious. The Court concluded that the district court was extremely patient, deliberate, careful, and reasonable in its handling and consideration of the appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.  The Court also found that the district court could reasonably conclude as it did, and the Court concluded that the decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The appellant also failed to carry his burden as noted above.

The Court found that Wyoming has not chosen to follow the federal provision cited by the appellant, as Rule 11(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is not found in the Wyoming Rules.  The Wyoming rule applies a standard of “any fair and just reason” to the withdrawal of a guilty plea before sentencing, as opposed to the federal standard of “any reason or no reason at all.”  The Court stated that a defendant has no absolute right to withdraw a plea of guilty before sentence is imposed, and where the strictures of W.R.Cr.P. 11 have been met, and the appellant intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily entered into his plea of guilty, the district court’s decision to deny such a motion is within its sound discretion.

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea to felony child abuse.

Justice Hill delivered the opinion for the court. 

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