Submitted: November 4, 2014.
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF1-18757-10). (Hon. Herbert B. Dixon, Jr., Trial Judge).
Nancy E. Allen for appellant.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, Elizabeth Trosman and Deborah Sines, Assistant United States Attorneys, and Susan M. Simpson, Special Assistant United States Attorney, were on the brief for appellee.
Before THOMPSON, Associate Judge, and NEWMAN and FERREN, Senior Judges.
On May 6, 2013, along with two co-defendants, appellant Sequarn Tibbs pled guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon (" ADW" ), conspiracy to commit ADW, two counts of voluntary manslaughter, and carrying a pistol without a license. Several months later, at the commencement of appellant's (twice re-scheduled) sentencing hearing, appellant's counsel sought a week's continuance in order to determine whether to file a written motion to withdraw appellant's plea. After the court denied the request for a continuance, appellant's counsel orally moved to withdraw the plea, arguing that appellant had acted in self-defense and had so claimed throughout his statements to the court during the Rule 11 plea colloquy. Counsel asserted that there was " no factual basis for [the] plea." The court denied the motion to withdraw and thereafter sentenced appellant to twenty-five years in prison.
This timely appeal followed. Appellant now argues that the trial court abused its
discretion by summarily denying his motion to withdraw his plea without making any findings of fact and without providing an explanation for the decision. Appellant asks that we vacate his convictions and remand the case to the trial court to give him an opportunity to withdraw his plea. We grant more limited relief: we remand for the trial court (1) to conduct such further inquiry and proceedings as may be necessary to allow it to determine whether appellant has a cognizable claim of self-defense; (2) to reconsider appellant's motion to withdraw his plea in light of that inquiry; and (3) if the court again denies the motion, to explain the basis for that decision.
A. The Government's Proffer
Appellant and his two co-defendants entered their guilty pleas on May 6, 2013. During the S.Ct. Crim. R. 11 colloquy that preceded entry of their pleas, the court instructed the defendants to " listen carefully" to the government's account of what its evidence would have been at trial, because the court would " have some more questions of [the defendants] about what the [g]overnment has said." The prosecutor then proffered that, had the case ...