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NJ Prosecutor Precluded from Reneging on Plea Agreement

16
Dec
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Henry Lee Conway, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 204 (October 14, 2010) – Conviction and sentence vacated, case remanded for sentencing in accordance with the original plea agreement.

“[S]hortly before his trial was to commence, defendant entered into a plea agreement. The written plea form, signed by defendant and the prosecutor, did not list any special conditions set by either side. Most relevant to this appeal, the State did not condition the agreement on defendant’s co-defendants also entering into plea agreements…. [W]hen one of the co-defendants opted to go to trial, the State filed a motion to vacate defendant’s plea agreement. The prosecutor contended that she understood that the plea deal was conditioned on all defendants pleading guilty…. [O]ver defendant’s vigorous objection, the trial judge granted the State’s motion. The judge reasoned that the State had relied on its ‘expectation’ that the plea agreement would be vacated if all defendants did not plead guilty…. [I]n this case the written plea agreement did not state any conditions that would give the State the right to withdraw from the deal. Likewise, when the plea agreement was placed on the record, the State placed no conditions on its acceptance of the plea agreement and did not reserve its right to withdraw acceptance of the plea deal if any conditions were not met. While defendant reserved his right to withdraw his plea if the co-defendants did not also plead guilty, he in no way obligated himself to invoke that right…. In short, if the State wanted to condition this plea agreement on the co-defendants accepting a plea bargain, the State should have explicitly stated that condition in the written plea agreement or in the prosecutor’s confirmation of the agreement on the record…. In the absence of any such explicit condition, defendant had a right to enforce the plea agreement.”

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