Judge Not Allowed to Pressure a Defendant to Plead Guilty

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a defendant’s guilty plea conviction because the judge’s participation in the plea bargain process was so great as to render the guilty plea involuntary.  Pride v. Kemp, S11A0159.   Pride was charged with Rape, Aggravated Assault, and two counts of Cruelty to Children.  His attorney negotiated a plea deal of 20 years to serve 13 years in prison.  However, the judge refused to accept the plea bargain.

In reversing Pride’s conviction, the Georgia Supreme Court noted that the judge’s participation in plea negotiations is prohibited as a constitutional matter when it is so great as to render a guilty plea involuntary. Skomer v. State, 183 Ga. App. 308 (1987).  A guilty plea must be knowingly and voluntarily entered by a defendant.  Making a knowing and voluntary plea requires an understanding of the nature of the charge, the rights being waived, and the consequences of the plea. Pride v. Kemp, S11A0159.  The Court stated “due to the force and majesty of the judiciary, a trial court’s participation in the plea negotiation may skew the defendant’s decision-making and render the plea involuntary because a defendant may disregard proper considerations and waive rights based solely on the judge’s stated inclination as to sentence.” McDaniel v. State, 271 Ga. 552 (1999). See also Gibson v. State, 281 Ga. App. 607 (2006) (trial court unlawfully inserted itself into plea process with comments that a defendant who rejects a plea offer and instead opts to go to trial will likely face a greater sentence).

The Georgia Supreme Court held that the judge’s improper judicial participation in the plea negotiations was so great that, as a constitutional matter, it rendered Pride’s resulting guilty plea involuntary.  The Court noted that Pride heard the judge repeatedly state that she  would impose a longer sentence if Pride went to trial and, indeed, would prefer that Pride go to trial so that she could give Pride the sentence that she would really like to give him.  Pride also heard the trial judge comment that there did not appear to be “anything wrong” with the State’s case against him. The Supreme Court noted that comments by the judge regarding the merits of the case in the course of a plea bargain negotiation are not only contrary to Uniform Superior Court Rule 33.5 (A) but also create a risk of a coerced guilty plea. See United States v. Barrett, 982 F.2d 193 (6th Cir. 1992) (holding, in case involving application of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11, that trial judge’s statements about the merits of the case were coercive, as they presented defendant with “the choice of pleading guilty or taking his chances at trial in front of a judge who seemed already to have made up his mind about the defendant’s guilt.”).

If you have questions about your options regarding a criminal charge, contact Rouse & Co., LLC for a detailed case evaluation. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Rouse & Co., LLC Attorneys at Law is an established Criminal Defense Law firm that serves clients in Atlanta, Georgia as well as Snellville, Loganville, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Buford, Monroe, Conyers, Convington, Stockbridge, Riverdale, Jonesboro, Fayetteville, Douglasville, Decatur, Doraville, Tucker, Fairburn, College Park, East Point, Peachtree City, Midtown Atlanta, North Atlanta, Buckhead, Marietta, Forest Park, Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Union City, Roswell, and Sandy Springs; we serve communities in a variety of counties including but not limited to: Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Clayton County, Henry County, Newton County, Rockdale County, Walton County, Fayette County, Fulton County, Douglas County, and Cobb County. Call us for immediate legal help at reasonable, fair, and inexpensive prices, cost, and/or fees. 
This entry was posted in Misd. | Felony | Criminal Defense. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.