Friday, December 15, 2006

AD4: defendant’s statement that he was acting “in self-defense” during plea colloquy required further inquiry

People v Ponder, 2006 NY Slip Op 08513 [available here]

During his colloquy upon a guilty plea to Assault in the First Degree, the defendant “stated that the victim, without any provocation by defendant, struck defendant in the head with a bottle and put him in a choke hold. Defendant stated that, ‘in self-defense,’ he pulled out a gun and fired, but stated that he did not intend to shoot the victim.” (Ponder, 2006 NY Slip Op 08513.) Although defendant did not make a motion to vacate his plea, the Fourth Department nevertheless reversed, agreeing that

this is one of those rare cases where preservation is not required because “the defendant’s recitation of the facts underlying the crime pleaded to clearly casts significant doubt upon the defendant’s guilt or otherwise calls into question the voluntariness of the plea”. […] Defendant’s colloquy negated the essential element of intent and also raised the possibility of a justification defense. Thus, the court had a “duty to inquire further to ensure that defendant’s guilty plea [was] knowing and voluntary.”

(Id. at __.)

It is incredible that the trial court did not try to clean up this plea colloquy before accepting the guilty plea.