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§ 904.10, Defendant’s Unsolicited Statement to Court Asking for Care by “Mental Doctors”

State v. Van G. Norwood, 2005 WI App 218
For Norwood: Terry Evans Williams

Issue: Whether defendant’s letter to the trial court, stating that he did not want the case to go to trial; that he wished to be placed in a facility in the care of “mental doctors”; and that the court sentence him for a Class B felony, was admissible.


¶20      We agree with Norwood that Wis. Stat. § 904.10 prohibited the use of statements from his correspondence to the court. Norwood stated that he wanted to avoid trial. Nothing in the record indicates that the State was amenable to dismissing the case. That fact left Norwood with two choices:  plead or go to trial.  Obviously, the only way he could avoid trial was to enter a plea. An offer to plead guilty or no contest was therefore implicit in the admitted statements. …¶21      We reject the trial court’s rationale that Norwood ’s statements could come in as party admissions.  Wisconsin Stat. § 908.01(4)(b) deals with admissions by a party as a general rule. Admissions incidental to an offer to plead, however, are a special kind of party admission:  they are impossible to segregate from the offer itself because the offer is implicit in the reasons advanced therefor. Wisconsin Stat. § 904.10 trumps § 908.01(4)(b)….

However, the error is deemed harmless, the court pointedly – and properly – noting in the process that “the precise standard for harmless error is still in flux,” ¶22.


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