In 1970, he agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder but he did it for a reason. The cookie is set by the GDPR Cookie Consent plugin and is used to store whether or not user has consented to the use of cookies. What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? A plea is an answer or response by a defendant as to a claim made by another individual. You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. An Alford plea is a plea that may be entered by a defendant who has been charged with a crime. Alford plea can be considered as evidence of recidivism (repeat offender) and can be used to aggravate a crime or increase sentence in a subsequent charge. In this plea, the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty. This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. Sentence proper when Alford plea withdrawn. These effects could include losing government benefits or the legal right to vote and render many defendants feeling as though they are psychological slave(s)(10) to the courts, with the prosecution convincing them to believe there is still enough evidence to convict them at any time. With this new information, both men were potentially up for a retrial, and having this in mind, State prosecutors offered both men Alford Pleas. Like a nolo contendere plea, an Alford plea allows a criminal defendant to enter a guilty plea without admitting guilt. The most common plea is a not guilty plea. The Court ultimately ruled that the court could accept a guilty plea when the defendant was simultaneously claiming he was innocent. Although the theory of the Alford plea may seem positive facially, in practice, this plea is often abused or creates negative results from its use. Tedia Gamino is a lawyer in Milwaukee, WI. As with all plea bargains, an Alford plea is not a right and it is ultimately up to the prosecutor and judge to decide if they will offer it. Answer (1 of 3): I imagine that you could find the meaning of an Alford Plea online with 10 seconds of effort, but here goes: The Alford Plea is a strange middle ground between the normal "guilty" amd "not guilty" pleas one can enter with a criminal court. Essentially, the defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge at trial. Following a sentencing hearing, defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison. What Is an Alford Plea? In the event the accused individual, called the "defendant," enters a plea of guilty, the case moves to the sentencing phase, as . If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Copyright 2023 The University of Alabama By rejecting non-essential cookies, Reddit may still use certain cookies to ensure the proper functionality of our platform. The Alford Plea was created in 1970, at the time Henry C. Alford was indicted for first degree murder(5). This distinction is relevant because unlike a nolo contendere plea, a formal admission of guilt under an Alford plea can be used against the defendant in future suits. The Federal District Court of Appeals then ruled that Alfords plea was made involuntarily, citing the defendants statement of, I just pleaded guilty because they said if I didnt, they would gas me for it.. An Alford plea can be a useful tool to criminal defense counsel, criminal defendants, and prosecutors. [5][14][15][16][17] This can be caused by circumstantial evidence and testimony favoring the prosecution and difficulty finding evidence and witnesses that would aid the defense. Defendants who take Alford pleas also may believe they are receiving a deal at the time, but it causes damaging effects once they are released from prison. An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court. Welcome to the Capstone Commentary, an online platform where students interested in legal research can test their hand at writing about the law. Avoiding this process may, in the end, reduce the defendants culpability, conviction, and sentencing for those acts. Today Alford pleas are accepted in every U.S. state except Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey and the United States military. While it is important to make an intelligent determination about the possible choices available, the judge may decide that the plea is unintelligent, involuntary or inaccurate based on the factors of the case. Michael Peterson Maintains His Innocence. TIL that something called an Alford Plea exists. Like the similarnolo contendereplea, an Alford plea skips the full process of a criminal trial because the defendant agrees to accept all the ramifications of a guilty verdict (i.e. For this reason, an Alford plea does count as a strike, in states that have a three-strikes law, or other habitual offender law. The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional". What equipment is necessary for safe securement for people who use their wheelchair as a vehicle seat? Why was Henry C Alfords guilty plea involuntary? How long is it safe to use nicotine lozenges? 10. They note that Prosecuting Attorney Keith L. Chrestman agreed to waive venue for the purpose of the circuit court hearing before Judge . A defendant making an Alford plea maintains his innocence of the offense charged. "[37], US Air Force attorney Steven E. Walburn argues in a 1998 article in The Air Force Law Review that this form of guilty plea should be adopted for usage by the United States military. [14] According to the book Gender, Crime, and Punishment published by Yale University Press, "Under the Alford doctrine, a defendant does not admit guilt but admits that the state has sufficient evidence to find him or her guilty, should the case go to trial. She is charged with robbery and assault. The Court went on to concede that it may be in the best interest of a defendant to accept a guilty plea in order to minimize his exposure to imprisonment or . Special pleas used in criminal cases include: Mental incompetence. What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? 30, 2021, Through the examples of these two men it is shown how the Alford Plea may have began as something that was intended to do good, but functionally has turned into something that is very much the contrary. 6. allows defendant to plea guilty while claiming innocence. Alford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, stating to the court that he was innocent, but only pleading guilty so that he would not receive the death penalty. This distinction is relevant because unlike a nolo contendere plea, a formal. Stephanos Bibas writes in a 2003 analysis for Cornell Law Review that Judge Frank H. Easterbrook and a majority of scholars "praise these pleas as efficient, constitutional means of resolving cases". It is the prospect of an ultimate dismissal of charges which engenders most pleas of this type. Once you enter a plea and it is accepted by the judge, the case is over. December 13, 2018). 17 purpose. Those who take Alford pleas also have many challenges finding jobs and effectively re-entering society, with Thompson expressing on a job application he put a question mark where it asked if he had ever been convicted of a felony. The trial court verdict was then vacated. The Alford Plea: Do the Cons Outweigh the Pros. This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. An Alford plea is a way of pleading guilty while maintaining your innocence. As with almost any other plea bargain, the hope of reduction in punishment is the prime motivation for defendants to waive a significant amount of their constitutional rights and enter a plea of guilty(6). The court is within its rights to find the defendant guilty, and the trial can result in a conviction. In the judges review of the plea, he must determine that the defendant is knowingly and intelligently accepting the guilty, or Alford, plea. The other two counts were dismissed. An Alford plea is a plea option named after the Supreme Court ruling in North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970). [19] As evidence existed that could have supported Alford's conviction, the Supreme Court held that his guilty plea was allowable while the defendant himself still maintained that he was not guilty. State prosecutors insisted to both men that they still had enough evidence to keep them on the murder convictions, and if they went to trial they would remain locked up. The defendant pled guilty to second-degre murder to avoid the death penalty, but still vocalized his . When you plead guilty, you are accepting responsibility, which some judges view as the first step towards rehabilitation. How chemistry is important in our daily life? in open court, must admit to the crimes charged so he/she can enter an alford plea. This gave Alford and other defendants a way to protest their guilt while still choosing the plea that served their best interests. The Alford plea is sometimes used in plea bargaining, as it allows the accused person to enter a plea recognizing that the prosecutions evidence would likely result in a conviction, even while maintaining he did not commit the crime. The sentencing court may, of necessity, consider a broad range of information, including the evidence of the crime, the defendant's criminal history and the demeanor of the defendant, including the presence or absence of remorse. (2021, July 30). The purpose of entering a no contest plea is often to avoid being sued civilly for essentially confessing to a crime, which is the basis of a guilty plea. It is easily forgotten that although the Alford Plea may have a negative legacy, the intentions in which it was created with were positive. The Court of Appeals, on an appeal from a denial of a writ of habeas corpus, found that appellees guilty plea was involuntary because it was motivated principally by fear of the death penalty. "[21] He said of the Supreme Court case, "They had to make a decision about what to do. In Alfords case, there had been enough evidence to build a strong case for his conviction, which would expose him to the death penalty. When the prosecution offers a plea bargain in which Johnny would enter an Alford plea of guilty to aggravated assault, in exchange for a maximum sentence of five years in prison, Johnny accepts. "[17] A Guide to Military Criminal Law notes that under the Alford plea, "the defendant concedes that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, but the defendant still refuses to admit guilt. The man got into a loud argument with some of the partygoers, which soon turned into a brawl, and a gun went off. In entering an Alford plea, the individual essentially enters a plea of guilty, while maintaining a claim of innocence. This is something every defendant should keep in mind . Plea in abatement (used to address procedural errors in bringing the charges against the defendant) [26] Defendants usually enter an Alford guilty plea if they want to avoid a possible worse sentence were they to lose the case against them at trial. The effect of an Alford plea includes the obvious benefit of a getting a break on a potentially severe sentence; it may also serve to protect the defendant from being charged with other related crimes. But opting out of some of these cookies may affect your browsing experience. | Disclaimer The Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled that the defendant had voluntarily entered the guilty plea with knowledge of what that meant. This is archived content from the U.S. Department of Justice website. An Alford plea (often erroneously called an "Alpha plea") is based on the 1970 Supreme Court case of Alford v. North Carolina, in which the Supreme Court held that a valid guilty plea does not require admission of guilt. Star Athletica, L.L.C. I just pleaded guilty because they said if I didnt, they would gas me for it, Alford later wrote in one of his appeals. The So Called "Alford Plea" An Alford plea is a conviction. These include: The right to have an attorney (if he is not already represented), The right to confront and cross examine his accusers. Robbery is a serious offense that earns Lilly a strike. If youve been accused of a crime, even if you havent been formally charged, we may be able to help you. The plea gets its name from the 1970 case North Carolina v. Alford, in which the defendant, Henry Alford, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in order to avoid capital punishment for the crime he was initially charged with - first degree murder. Legal Information Institute. An Alford plea is a legal term which refers to a defendant's refusal to admit guilt while still acknowledging that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict them. He later sued the State for the 21 years he spent wrongfully imprisoned and was awarded a settlement of 9 million dollars. This type of plea originates from a ruling handed down by the state's Appellate Court in 1987, which specified that one can avoid admitting guilt by accepting a prison sentence if he or she concludes that he or she would probably have been found guilty. An Alford plea allows defendant to plead guilty even while unable or unwilling to admit guilt. The defendant gets to "save face" by using an Alford plea, but it is legally the same as a guilty plea. Had he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, Alford would have had the possibility of a life sentence and would have avoided the death penalty, but he did not want to admit guilt. A few states like New Jersey and Indiana expressly forbid Alfred pleas. At that time North Carolina law provided for the penalty of life imprisonment when a plea of guilty was accepted to a first-degree murder charge; for the death penalty following a jury verdict of guilty, unless the jury recommended life imprisonment; and for a penalty of from two to 30 years imprisonment for second-degree murder. You cannot later change your mind and you cannot sue for damages. Finally, the Alford Plea allows both defendants and their counsel to refrain from perjuring themselves to the court and removes the incentive to lie. 7 When was Alford indicted for first degree murder? In other words, an Alford plea is the same as pleading guilty while also claiming to be innocent. An Alford plea is an alternative plea that does not involve admitting guilt. whether probable cause exists to show the crime was committed, and; . If your husband believes that he got bad advice, then he should consider a post-conviction petition. Even if the prosecutor has offered the plea bargain, and the defendant agreed, the judge is under no obligation to approve or accept the plea. [12] Others hold that an Alford plea is simply one form of a guilty plea,[9][10] and, as with other guilty pleas, the judge must see there is some factual basis for the plea. allows defendant to plea guilty while claiming innocence. Plea Best Not Taken: Why Criminal Defendants Should Avoid Taking the Alford Plea. In cases where the criminal defendant has actually committed the crime; and has no credible defense, this is usually the best course of action. However, an Alford plea is a complex tool and must be properly understood and entered in order to be effectively used. Although an outward expression of "not guilty" is not required, in some states, like Georgia, standing mute is equivalent to . Montaldo, Charles. 1970 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case of North Carolina v. Alford. The Alford plea or Alford doctrine is a form of guilty plea in a United States criminal court in which the defendant acknowledges that the prosecution probably has enough evidence to secure a conviction, but he does not specifically admit committing the crime.Used in state and local courts within the United States, the defendant claims innocence but agrees to accept a conviction in the . One of the things the court has to do is figure out how to answer new questions, and that is what happened in this case. The defendant is entering the plea to get the benefit of the plea bargain from the prosecution. And guilty defendants who are in denial should be empowered to use these pleas instead of being forced to stand trial. He donated all of the proceeds to charity. We must trust the accused to make such an important decision for himself. When a defendant enters a guilty plea, whether a straight plea of guilty, or of nolo contendere, or an Alford plea, the judge reviews it, to be sure the defendant understands what is happening. "[10], The Alford guilty plea is "a plea of guilty containing a protestation of innocence". During the plea hearing, Alford told the judge that he didnt commit the murder, and that he was only entering a plea of guilty to avoid the death penalty. 11. punishment). Sometimes criminal defendants use this type of plea because the evidence against them is too strong to make a difference in avoiding a conviction. The Supreme Court would go on to uphold Alford's . More basically, they allow guilty defendants to avoid accepting responsibility for their wrongs. What Does an Innocence Man Have to Do to Go Free? To explore this concept, consider the following Alford plea definition. 1 The court appointed an attorney to represent him, and this attorney questioned all but one of the various witnesses who appellee said would substantiate his claim of innocence. Rose, Megan. punishment) without first attesting to having committed the crime. Jury Nullification: Definition and Examples, Appellate Jurisdiction in the US Court System, Recent Legal History of the Death Penalty in America, An Overview of the 'Castle Doctrine' and 'Stand Your Ground' Laws, What Is Double Jeopardy?

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