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Marshall v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 25, 2016


          Argued May 10, 2016

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF1-17177-12) (Hon. Rhonda Reid Winston, Trial Judge)

          Daniel S. Harawa, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein and Jonathan W. Anderson, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

          Sharon A. Sprague, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and Richard DiZinno, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

          BEFORE: Fisher and Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judges; and Nebeker, Senior Judge.


         This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the judgment of conviction is affirmed .

          Nebeker, Senior Judge.

         This case presents an appeal from a trial court's reconsideration of a prematurely granted order allowing appellant to withdraw his original valid plea of guilty (before sentence). The withdrawal motion was filed nearly two months after the plea was entered. The trial court judge granted withdrawal without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing to enquire into the basis for the motion. The trial court judge granted the government's subsequent motion to reconsider and hold a hearing. It then vacated the order granting the withdrawal, reinstated the guilty plea and imposed sentence. The guilty plea was for a negotiated sentence to second-degree murder while armed on an indictment for first-degree murder. The appellant now asserts that the grant of withdrawal was irrevocable. The court rejects that contention and adopts the Third Circuit's reasoning in United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d. 600, 604-05 (3d Cir. 1973), with an acknowledgment that the general jurisdiction of the Superior Court as compared to the limited jurisdiction of the Article III district court makes no difference to the inherent power of our trial court. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction is affirmed.[1]


         On entering his plea of guilty to second-degree murder-a lesser included offense of the indicted charge of first-degree murder-appellant affirmed that he was pleading guilty of his own free will, and not as the result of any coercion. The trial court ensured he understood that if he decided to plead not guilty, the government would be required to prove his guilt with legally competent evidence, which he would be entitled to challenge with the aid of counsel, and set forth his own evidence and a defense, if he so chose. The trial court also explained that he would be entitled to all of his constitutional privileges, as well as the right to seek appellate review before this court. Appellant stated that he understood his rights and still desired to plead guilty.

         The government proffered that had the case gone to trial, it would have presented evidence that on October 17, 2011, appellant shot the victim at least thirteen times with a .40 caliber Glock pistol-that was soon recovered at his girlfriend's grandmother's house-and fled the scene. Appellant agreed that all of these facts were true, and pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree murder while armed. The trial court accepted his plea and set the case for sentencing.

         Ten days before sentencing, appellant filed the motion to withdraw his guilty plea. In it, he did not contest the sufficiency of the Rule 11 inquiry, but made a bare-bone assertion of innocence. On June 19, 2014, the government opposed appellant's motion, principally arguing (1) that he failed to set forth any facts that would constitute a defense to the charge to which he already pleaded guilty, and (2) that his nearly two months of delay in moving to withdraw his plea should inure to his detriment in the trial court's consideration of the motion. On June 20, 2014, after hearing argument on the motion, but without conducting a factual inquiry, the trial court took the motion under advisement. On June 25, 2014, the trial court ruled in appellant's favor and informed the parties it believed it would be fair to allow appellant to withdraw his plea.

         On July 31, 2014, the government moved for reconsideration of the order allowing appellant to withdraw his guilty plea and asked the court, at a minimum, to order an evidentiary hearing. On August 15, 2014, the trial court held a status hearing on that motion where the government proffered that it discovered a series of recorded jailhouse phone calls, many made before the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, wherein appellant stated he had learned that one of the principal witnesses against him was dead.[2] On that basis, the government ...

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