STATE v. ANTHONY D., SC 19382

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Criminal; Whether Trial Court’s Inquiry into Defendant's Motion to Withdraw his Guilty Plea was SufficientThe defendant pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to sexual assault in the first degree in exchange for an agreed upon sentence of ten years of incarceration followed by ten years of special parole.  At the sentencing hearing, defense counsel stated that the defendant had expressed concerns over the manner in which he was represented and was requesting that he be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea.  Defense counsel also asked that new counsel be appointed for the defendant to investigate his claim.  The trial court remarked that it did not see any factual basis to permit a plea withdrawal and asked counsel if there were any problems with the court's plea canvass of the defendant, to which counsel responded that the canvass had been thorough.  The trial court stated that unless the defendant could point out any specific defect, it was not inclined to grant the defendant’s motion to withdraw his plea.  After proceeding with the sentencing hearing, but before sentence was pronounced, the trial court specifically asked the defendant if he wanted to say anything, and the defendant responded “no.”  The trial court then proceeded to sentence the defendant to the agreed upon term.  The defendant appealed from his conviction, claiming that he was denied his federal and state constitutional rights to due process of law and to the adequate assistance of counsel when the trial court denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea without proper inquiry or an evidentiary hearing.  The Appellate Court (151 Conn. App. 109) affirmed the judgment, concluding that the inquiry conducted by the trial court was sufficient under the circumstances of this case.  The Appellate Court found that the defendant and his attorney were given the opportunity to provide a basis for a plea withdrawal.  The Appellate Court then noted that, while the burden is on the defendant to show a plausible reason for the withdrawal of the plea and to allege specific facts that warrant the trial court’s consideration of the motion to withdraw, defense counsel made only a vague allegation that the defendant had concerns about his attorney’s representation and that neither counsel nor the defendant offered any specific concerns or requested an evidentiary hearing.  The Appellate Court further noted that when the defendant was asked if he wanted to say anything before sentence was pronounced, he specifically declined the opportunity.  The Appellate Court determined, therefore, that the defendant provided no basis for further inquiry by the trial court into his request to withdraw his plea.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's decision denying the defendant's oral motion to withdraw his plea due to ineffective assistance of counsel without conducting a further inquiry.