A petition for writ of coram nobis must show that (1) a court of record contains a factual error that, if known, would have prevented the court from entering judgment, and (2) petitioners has no other remedy at law such as an appeal. See State ex rel. Patel v. State, 2012 WI App 117, ¶13, 344 Wis. 2d 405, 824 N.W.2d 862. These writs are rare. Defendants sometimes seeks them when they are out of custody and cannot bring a §974.06 motion. In this case, “Seth” petitioned one 10 years after the circuit court adjudicated him delinquent and sent him to Lincoln Hills.
In 2004, Seth was adjudicated delinquent for 1st-degree child sexual assault. In 2006, his therapist insisted that he had to admit to any other crimes that he had committed in order to complete treatment and be eligible for release. He admitted to 8 additional assaults. His therapist reported them to law enforcement, and the State charged him more counts of child sexual assault.
Seth’s petition argued that his therapist did not have a duty to report the assaults. His admissions were subject to the doctor-patient privilege. He did not know that he could prevent disclosure of those statements. And if the circuit court had known that he had admitted to the additional crimes during therapy it would not have found that he knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered his pleas.
Because Seth was no longer under the dispositional order, he satisfied the “no other remedy at law” criterion. However, the court of appeals held that he failed to show that an error of fact existed at the time the circuit court accepted his pleas. The delinquency petition stated that he admitted the offense at Lincoln Hills, and a dispositional report filed with the court before disposition stated that he admitted the new offenses during therapy. Opinion, ¶11 .
The court of appeals also held that Seth’s admission to the offense during treatment did not undercut the circuit court’s finding that he entered his pleas knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Opinion, ¶13 .
Seth made additional arguments like: (1) he did not know he could move to suppress his statements, (2) the delinquency petition cited the wrong law, and (3) he was placed at Lincoln Hills longer than the 3 year limit in § 938.538(3)(a)1. (2007-08). The court of appeals held that Seth’s lack of knowledge about suppression motions did not prevent the circuit court from accepting his plea. Plus the second and third errors were errors of law, which cannot be addressed through a writ of coram nobis. Opinion, ¶¶14-17.