CRIMINAL: Plea agreements: JONES V. COMMONWEALTH (COA 7/25/2008)

JONES V. COMMONWEALTH
CRIMINAL:  Plea agreements
2007-CA-000235
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART, REVERSING AND REMANDING IN PART
PANEL:  MOORE PRESIDING; COMBS, CAPERTON CONCUR
LIVINGSTON COUNTY
DATE RENDERED: 7/25/2008

Chris Jones appeals the Livingston Circuit Court’s judgment convicting him of flagrant non-support. Specifically, he appeals the circuit court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and the court’s failure to hold a competency hearing. Additionally, the Commonwealth moves to dismiss this appeal as moot.  CA denied the motion to dismiss, affirmed the circuit court’s failure to hold a competency hearing, and reversed and remanded the remainder of the court’s judgment.
Pursuant to RCr 8.10, CA found that the circuit court should have permitted Jones to withdraw his guilty plea because the court declined to accept the Commonwealth’s recommendation of probation made pursuant to the plea agreement.  Further, the court explicitly stated during the original sentencing hearing that if Jones failed to continue making child support payments during the following six months, the court would either set aside his plea and let him proceed to trial, or sentence him without probation, depending on Jones’s choice. The court subsequently failed to abide by this when it refused to allow him to withdraw his plea. Therefore, the court erred when it denied Jones’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.

Jones provided absolutely no evidence that would lead the circuit court to have reasonable doubt of his competency. His counsel merely filed a motion for a psychological/psychiatric evaluation because Jones allegedly claimed he was going to rely on a defense of mental disease or defect, but this motion does not amount to “evidence.” Additionally, Jones’s unsworn statement during his sentencing hearing indicating that he suffered from anxiety and depression may have possibly been used as a defense to the charge against him, but it failed to show that he did not understand what was happening in the proceedings, nor did it show that he was incompetent to stand trial. Furthermore, because Jones swore during his plea colloquy that he had never suffered from a mental disease or defect, the circuit court had no reason to doubt Jones’s competency. Therefore, the circuit court did not err when it failed to hold a competency hearing.

Digested by Scott C. Byrd
www.olginandbyrd.com

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