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Washington Court Rejects Defendant’s Argument That Guilty Plea Was Involuntary

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2016 | Assault

The Washington Court of Appeals recently rejected defendant Daniel James Jackson’s argument that his assault conviction should be reversed because his trial counsel’s ineffective assistance caused him to involuntarily plead guilty.

In August 2014, Jackson entered an Alford plea to his charge of fourth-degree assault. (An Alford plea is when the defendant pleads guilty without making an admission of guilt.) At the change of plea hearing, Jackson acknowledged that he read and reviewed the plea, the elements of the crime, and the rights he would be forfeiting. Jackson also confirmed that he made his plea freely and voluntarily, and that no one threatened or coerced him to plead guilty. The trial court found a factual basis for the plea and accepted it.

At sentencing, the state asserted that Jackson had attempted to pull a knife on the victim and his father-in-law outside a grocery store after they refused to give Jackson money. After seeing the knife, the father-in-law “knocked Mr. Jackson over,” injuring him.

Jackson’s attorney disputed the state’s account, asserting instead that Jackson had not pulled a knife and that he was just turning away when “someone slammed him to the ground.” Trial counsel further stated that Jackson was initially hesitant to accept the plea offer because he “believe[d] he did not do anything wrong,” but he changed his plea because he didn’t have the money to post bail and would be released from jail that day if he pleaded guilty.

Approximately a month after filing his notice of appeal, Jackson filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, represented by new counsel. In it, Jackson stated that his trial counsel did not provide him with adequate assistance. Specifically, he stated that trial counsel never reviewed video footage that would exonerate him, and he coerced him into changing his plea. The state opposed the motion, arguing that Jackson signed the plea after a full colloquy, and Jackson could not establish that trial counsel failed to provide competent assistance. In regard to the video, the state asserted that no one has located such a video or provided evidence to suggest that if located it would change the facts of the case. The trial court denied Jackson’s motion.

On appeal, Jackson argued that his trial counsel’s failure to investigate the video and properly advise him about a potential self-defense claim constituted ineffective assistance, resulting in an involuntary entry of a guilty plea. The Washington Court of Appeals rejected these arguments. The court noted that there was nothing in the record to show that the alleged video footage existed or that trial counsel was even aware of a video at the time he advised Jackson regarding the plea. Without evidence demonstrating that an exculpatory video existed or that trial counsel was aware of such a video, Jackson could not establish that trial counsel was deficient for failing to investigate the video or that there was additional information Jackson could have considered before entering his guilty plea. And since there was no evidence in the record that an exculpatory video existed, Jackson also failed to establish that he was prejudiced by the video.

Regarding Jackson’s argument that his guilty plea was involuntary because trial counsel did not properly advise him about a possible self-defense claim, the court held this argument also failed because there was no evidence regarding how trial counsel advised Jackson about this possible defense.

Since Jackson did not establish on the record that trial counsel’s deficient performance resulted in the entry of an involuntary guilty plea, the court affirmed his conviction.

If you are accused of assault in Washington, a criminal defense attorney at Smith & White, PLLC can ensure that you are capably represented at all stages of your proceeding. We can examine every facet of your case and explore every possible defense. We will hear your side and honor your decision regarding how to plead. Call the law office of Smith & White, PLLC at 253-363-8662. The first consultation is free.