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Pressure to plead to get out of jail didn’t amount to fair and just reason for plea withdrawal

State v. Arttistis B. Hall, 2018AP1522-CR, District 1, 3/19/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

After failing to comply with a family court child placement order, Hall was charged with two felony counts of interference with child custody; he ultimately pled to a reduced charge of contempt of court. (¶¶2-3). Though he expressed his displeasure with the situation, he got through what appears to be a pretty thorough plea colloquy. (¶¶4-6). Before sentencing he moved to withdraw his plea, but the court of appeals holds he didn’t show a fair and just reason for plea withdrawal.

Hall’s reasons for plea withdrawal were a bit of a moving target, but they ultimately coalesced into the claims that: he was pressured to take the plea by his lawyer and by the fact he was incarcerated awaiting trial; he has a learning disability and was confused about the court process; and he was adamant in proclaiming his innocence and had an actual defense at trial. (¶¶12-13, 15, 22).

The record belies his claims he was pressured by his lawyer, confused, or adamant about his innocence. (¶¶24-26). As for the pressure from pretrial incarceration, the circuit court reasoned that kind of pressure, while a relevant factor, isn’t automatically a fair and just reason; the court of appeals, leaning very heavily indeed on the “relatively high burden” a defendant bears on review of the circuit court’s decision, State v. Jenkins, 2007 WI 96, ¶44, 303 Wis. 2d 157, 736 N.W.2d 24, holds this reasoning was not clearly erroneous. (¶¶27-30).

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