Plea Withdrawal – Nelson/Bentley Hearing – Exculpatory Evidence
Ardell wasn’t entitled to a hearing on his postconviction plea-withdrawal motion premised on alleged suppression of exculpatory evidence. The court holds that, even assuming that the State did withhold exculpatory evidence, the motion failed to show that revelation of this evidence would have impacted Ardell’s plea decision, ¶¶17-18.
The court cites the general test for holding a Nelson/Bentley hearing, ¶¶15-16 – which is to say, roughly, a hearing on a claim “extrinsic” to, as opposed to a deficiency in, the plea colloquy. The court does not, however, acknowledge plea-withdrawal caselaw dealing specifically with suppressed exculpatory evidence, e.g., State v. Sturgeon, 231 Wis. 2d 487, ¶35, 605 N.W.2d 589 (Ct. App. 1999) (“We conclude that the relevant inquiry is whether there is a reasonable probability that, but for the failure to disclose, the defendant would have refused to plead and would have insisted on going to trial”; enumerating factors informing this inquiry, ¶36): why not rely on that, more pinpoint, authority rather than boilerplate? (But see, State v. Harris, 2004 WI 64, ¶23 n.15, 272 Wis. 2d 80, 680 N.W.2d 737, and accompanying text, holding “that due process does not require the disclosure of material exculpatory impeachment information before a defendant enters into a plea bargain,” while declining to overrule Sturgeon, at least for the moment.) Although the court here did not purport to apply Sturgeon‘s reasonable probability test, there is no reason to think it inapplicable.
Plea Colloquy – Sufficiency
¶21 In the present case, the record conclusively shows that, during the plea colloquy, the circuit court: (1) expressly referred to the plea questionnaire and waiver-of-rights form and addendum, as well as the attached standard jury instruction for knowingly violating a domestic abuse injunction, which Ardell signed; and (2) verified with Ardell’s attorney that she went over the relevant elements of the offense with Ardell. The circuit court asked Ardell whether he had read and signed the plea questionnaire and waiver-of-rights form and addendum, as well as the attached jury instruction. Ardell confirmed that he had. The court continued to reference the form and jury instruction when it asked Ardell if he had sufficient time to review all the matters referred to in the documents and discuss them with his lawyer. Again, Ardell replied that he did. The court then expressly asked Ardell if he understood that by pleading guilty he was “giving up … the right to have a jury trial where the State has the burden of proving each and every element of the offense of violating a domestic abuse injunction?” And Ardell told the court he understood. In addition, the circuit court asked Ardell’s counsel whether she “explain[ed] to him the nature of the offenses, that is, all the elements that the State would have to prove up for each of these counts if this were to go to trial?” Trial counsel affirmed that she had.
¶22 Because the record conclusively establishes that the circuit court abided by the requirements of Wis. Stat. § 971.08 and Bangert when accepting Ardell’s pleas, Ardell has not met his burden of demonstrating that a manifest injustice occurred and the circuit court did not err in denying him an evidentiary hearing on those grounds.
Plea procedure recited, ¶20.