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White v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 1, 2016

JAYVON R. WHITE, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

          Argued September 17, 2015

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division (FEL-2363-00) (Hon. Jennifer M. Anderson, Motions Judge)

          Matthew J. Dowd, with whom Wesley E. Weeks, was on the brief, for appellant.

          Tim Cahill, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, Suzanne Grealy Curt, James Sweeney, and Lauren R. Bates, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

          Before Thompson and Beckwith, Associate Judges, and Reid, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         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 trial court's judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, followed by the trial court's statement of factual findings and conclusions of law.

          OPINION

          Inez Smith Reid, Senior Judge.

         In 2004, this court rejected appellant Jayvon White's challenge to the trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. White v. United States, 863 A.2d 839 (D.C. 2004) (White I). In the case now before us, Mr. White appeals the trial court's denial of his 2012 pro se motion, filed under D.C. Code § 23-110 (2012 Repl.), to vacate, set aside or correct sentence and judgment. He primarily claims that (1) during his plea colloquy the trial court misinformed him about his parole eligibility; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for an evidentiary hearing on his 2012 motion. He also argues that he is not procedurally barred from asserting his 2012 claims. For the reasons set forth below, we vacate the trial court's judgment and remand this case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, followed by the trial court's statement of factual findings and conclusions of law.

         FACTUAL SUMMARY

         The record reveals that on September 4, 2001, the trial court (the Honorable Judith Retchin) held a hearing regarding Mr. White's decision to accept the government's plea offer. Mr. White agreed to plead guilty to the lesser-included charge of second-degree murder while armed, and to possession of a firearm during a crime of violence ("PFCV"). The government agreed to (a) dismiss another charged robbery case and the remaining counts in the indictment, and (b) to withdraw the life without parole papers that it had filed.

         During the plea colloquy on September 4, 2001, Judge Retchin informed Mr. White that (a) the penalty for the second-degree murder offense was "20 years to life with a mandatory sentence of at least five to fifteen years, " and (b) the related PFCV offense had a mandatory sentence of five to fifteen years. In addition, Judge Retchin explained that she could impose consecutive sentences, "meaning that [she] could sentence [Mr. White] to as much as 25 years to life." The judge stated that Mr. White would not be affected by the then recently adopted Truth in Sentencing law, and therefore, he would be eligible for parole, but "that the mandatory part of the sentence is exempted from the parole, meaning that [Mr. White] would be required to serve a minimum of five years, " and that if the court made the sentences consecutive, "it would be a minimum of 10 years before [he would] even [be] eligible for parole." Mr. White, who was represented by his trial counsel (Michael J. McCarthy), said he understood the explanation, and he acknowledged that no one had told him what his actual sentence would be.[1] Mr. White entered his guilty plea.

         Prior to sentencing and through new trial counsel (Lexi Negin Christ), Mr. White filed a motion on December 7, 2001, to withdraw his guilty plea. He submitted an affidavit in support of his motion on January 14, 2002. The affidavit summarized his alleged understanding as to what his trial counsel had told him about the effect of a guilty plea.[2] The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on February 8, 2002, during which Mr. White testified. He stated his belief that if he lost at trial he would be sentenced to life without parole, and further, that defense counsel had informed him that if he took the government's plea offer, "he would see the parole board after 5 years" and he would "probably do about fifteen years." Subsequently, on February 13, 2002, the trial court denied Mr. White's motion, rejecting (1) his assertion of legal innocence; (2) his contention that he promptly moved to withdraw his guilty plea; (3) his argument that he was "deprived of the full benefit ...


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