State v. Lynch

Decision Date14 February 2012
Docket NumberDocket No. 37303
PartiesSTATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. LESLIE ROY LYNCH, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtIdaho Court of Appeals

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 363

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED OPINION AND SHALL NOT BE CITED AS AUTHORITY

Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Gooding County. Hon. John K. Butler, District Judge.

Judgment of conviction for sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years, affirmed.

Law Office of Andrew Parnes, Ketchum, for appellant. Andrew Parnes, argued.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Jessica M. Lorello, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Jessica M. Lorello, argued.

GUTIERREZ, Judge

Leslie Roy Lynch appeals from his judgment of conviction after entry of a guilty plea to two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years. Specifically, Lynch asserts the district court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because the plea was coerced and Lynch received ineffective assistance of counsel.

I.FACTS AND PROCEDURE

In 1997, Lynch was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct for acts he committed against two minor girls in 1996. After a preliminary hearing, the State moved to dismiss the case without prejudice. In 2008, Lynch was arrested on probable cause for a felony purportedly involving similar acts committed against a different young girl. Lynch was not charged with a crime for the conduct that resulted in the arrest; however, the State re-filed thecharges that had been dismissed in 19971 and added another count of lewd conduct and one count of sexual abuse of a minor for conduct that also occurred in 1996.

On the renewed and additional charges, Lynch's original defense counsel filed two motions to suppress evidence: one based on an overbroad search warrant and the other based on illegal seizure. He also filed a motion for a "taint hearing" and a motion in limine, seeking to exclude certain photographs taken as evidence. To introduce evidence of prior bad acts under Idaho Rule of Evidence 404(b), the State filed a motion in limine (404(b) motion). Prior to the hearings on those motions, defense counsel made numerous motions to withdraw as Lynch's counsel, which the district court denied. Lynch nonetheless retained new counsel. Lynch's new defense counsel filed a notice of appearance on April 10, 2009, four days prior to the hearing on the State's 404(b) motion.

At the hearing on the State's 404(b) motion, defense counsel informed the court that he had just been retained and had not been able to review the material. However, because the State's witnesses were present to testify, counsel proceeded with the hearing, cross-examined the State's witnesses, and reserved the right to recall witnesses, present rebuttal witnesses, and/or produce other evidence. Counsel also filed an ex parte motion to continue the trial, which the district court later granted.

The district court heard all other pending motions, including the motions to suppress and the defense's motion in limine, on June 3, 2009. After oral argument from both parties and supplemental briefing, the district court issued a written order on the defense's motions, which included the following findings and rulings: (1) the defense's motion in limine was no longer at issue because the State was not seeking to introduce the photographic evidence contested therein; (2) the ruling on the motion to suppress based on an overbroad warrant was reserved until such time as the State sought to introduce the evidence at issue; and (3) the motion to suppress based on illegal seizure was denied. The district court issued a supplemental written order on the motion to suppress based on an overbroad warrant after learning that the State did not intend to introduce evidence or other exhibits seized as a result of that search warrant and concluded themotion was no longer at issue. Finally, in another written order, the district court granted in part and denied in part the State's 404(b) motion.2

On July 26, 2009, two days prior to the pretrial conference, Lynch's defense counsel met with him to discuss a plea offer from the State that had previously been relayed to Lynch and recommended that Lynch take the plea offer. At the pretrial conference, the State submitted an amended information of two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years based on the plea agreement. The district court then conducted a colloquy with Lynch wherein Lynch entered a guilty plea to the two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years, Idaho Code § 18-1506. The other charges were dismissed. After preparation of a presentence investigation report and psychosexual evaluation, the district court sentenced Lynch to a unified term of twenty years, with ten years determinate on each count, to be served concurrently. On an Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion to correct an illegal sentence, the district court reduced the sentences to a unified term of fifteen years, with ten years determinate on each count, to be served concurrently.3

After sentencing, Lynch filed a timely notice of appeal. Thereafter, he moved to withdraw his guilty plea in district court and the appeal was suspended pending the motion. In support of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, Lynch argued his plea was coerced because of the lack of communication between him and his attorneys, because he felt he had no choice but to plead guilty, and because his attorneys told him if he pled guilty he would have a good chance at getting probation. Lynch claimed he attempted to reach his attorneys numerous times between the hearing on the State's motion in limine and the next court date of June 3, nearly two months later, with little success. He also asserted his attorneys repeatedly told him that probation was a possible, if not probable, sentence and that he could enter an Alford4 plea; however, neither of the attorneys' assertions were true. Additionally, Lynch argued he received ineffectiveassistance of counsel because of defense counsel's lack of investigation and other preparation for trial, among other failures. As one example, Lynch pointed to the fact that at the June 3 hearing on the motions, defense counsel called no witnesses, other than Lynch himself, and made no challenge to the admission of certain evidence in the case. Lynch also claimed defense counsel failed to investigate or interview any of the State's witnesses and should have filed additional pretrial motions.

The district court denied Lynch's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, finding Lynch failed to present evidence of coercion, fraud, fear, or ignorance. The district court also found no evidence of deficiency in defense counsel's assistance and no prejudice to Lynch resulting from the manner in which the case was handled.

II.STANDARD OF REVIEW

As a threshold matter in considering a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, the district court considers whether or not the defendant entered the plea voluntarily. I.C.R. 11(c); State v. Dopp, 124 Idaho 481, 483-84, 861 P.2d 51, 53-54 (1993); see State v. Martinez, 89 Idaho 129, 139, 403 P.2d 597, 603 (1965); State v. Hanslovan, 147 Idaho 530, 536, 211 P.3d 775, 781 (Ct. App. 2008). If a plea is not voluntary, the trial court must grant the relief and allow the defendant to withdraw the plea. State v. Detweiler, 115 Idaho 443, 445, 767 P.2d 286, 288 (Ct. App. 1989). A district court's finding of voluntariness of a plea will be upheld on appeal if it can be reasonably inferred from the record as a whole. Dopp, 124 Idaho at 483-84, 861 P.2d at 53-54. If the court determines that the plea was voluntary, whether to grant a motion to withdraw a guilty plea lies in the discretion of the district court. State v. Freeman, 110 Idaho 117, 121, 714 P.2d 86, 90 (Ct. App. 1986).

III.DISCUSSION
A. Voluntariness of the Plea

Lynch asserts his plea was not voluntary because defense counsel told him he had no chance to win at trial and provided false information to Lynch regarding the plea offer: counsel advised Lynch that if he pled guilty he could avoid prison time and that probation was highly probable, when in fact it was highly unlikely. Lynch claims his counsel advised him that the worst case scenario was a "rider." Additionally, Lynch states he was never advised thatcontinuing to assert innocence, after the district court rejected an Alford plea, would negatively affect him at sentencing. Lastly, Lynch asserts the poor relationship between him and his attorneys rendered his plea involuntary. The State responds that the carefully conducted colloquy demonstrates Lynch voluntarily entered his plea. Further, Lynch had time to consult with his counsel, assured the court he wished to proceed numerous times throughout the colloquy, and asked questions of the court to clarify his understanding where necessary before continuing to proceed.

Validity of a plea depends on whether the defendant entered the plea voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. Dopp, 124 Idaho at 483, 861 P.2d at 53; State v. Rose, 122 Idaho 555, 558, 835 P.2d 1366, 1369 (Ct. App. 1992). A plea will not be valid unless the record, on the whole, indicates that the defendant: (1) understood the nature of the charges and was not coerced; (2) knowingly and intelligently waived his rights to a jury trial, to confront his accusers, and to refrain from incriminating himself; and (3) understood the consequences of pleading guilty. See I.C.R. 11(c); State v. Colyer, 98 Idaho 32, 34, 557 P.2d 626, 628 (1976). A prima facie showing of compliance with these due process requirements is made when the minimum requirements of Idaho Criminal Rule 11(c) have been met. Detweiler, 115 Idaho at 446, 767 P.2d at 289. Thereafter, the defendant "has the burden of persuasion to demonstrate a manifest injustice by establishing that the plea was induced by misapprehension,...

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