State v. Wills

Decision Date07 June 1995
Docket NumberNo. 92-3243-CR,92-3243-CR
Citation533 N.W.2d 165,193 Wis.2d 273
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent-Petitioner, v. Joseph Darryl WILLS, Defendant-Appellant.

For the plaintiff-respondent-petitioner the cause was argued by Gregory Posner-Weber, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom on the briefs was James E. Doyle, Atty. Gen.

For the defendant-appellant there was a brief by Bill Ginsberg, Rick B. Meier and Mandell & Ginsberg, Madison, and oral argument by Bill Ginsberg.

BABLITCH, Justice.

The State of Wisconsin (State) seeks review of a court of appeals' decision which held that Joseph Wills was entitled to be resentenced because the prosecutor violated the terms of the plea agreement entered into between Wills and the State. In this review we are asked to determine: (1) the appropriate standard of appellate review to be utilized in determining whether a prosecutor violated the terms of a plea agreement; and (2) whether the prosecutor violated the terms of the plea agreement in this case.

The court is equally divided on whether to affirm or reverse the court of appeals with respect to the issue of whether the prosecutor violated the terms of the plea agreement in this case. Chief Justice Heffernan, Justice Bablitch and Justice Geske would affirm; Justice Day, Justice Steinmetz and Justice Wilcox would reverse. Justice Abrahamson did not participate. Accordingly, the decision of the court of appeals with respect to that issue is affirmed. Consequently, our sole task is to determine the appropriate standard of appellate review to be utilized in determining whether the prosecutor violated the terms of the plea agreement.

The facts relevant to this review are not in dispute. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Joseph Wills pled no contest to a charge of first-degree intentional homicide while armed with a dangerous weapon. In turn, the State agreed to recommend that Wills' eligibility for parole would be determined by the parole commission under sec. 304.06(1), Stats., and not by the circuit court under sec. 973.014(2), Stats. (1991-92). 1

Prior to sentencing the court sent both parties a letter inviting arguments with respect to the court's exercise of its sentencing discretion under sec. 973.014, Stats. (1991-92). The State responded with a letter which is the gravamen of this case. Wills contends that the State breached the plea agreement in the letter by failing to argue for the agreed recommendation, and the court consequently set Wills' parole eligibility date at September 8, 2013. On a postconviction motion for resentencing, the circuit court determined that the State's written argument did not violate the terms of the plea agreement. Accordingly, it denied Wills' motion. The court of appeals disagreed and the State seeks review of that decision.

The issue left to be determined is the standard of review with respect to the question of whether the prosecutor breached the plea agreement. The State contends that the question of whether a prosecutor violated the terms of a plea agreement is a mixed question of law and fact. Accordingly, the State contends that the facts should be reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard of review, and the issue of whether those facts constitute a violation of a plea agreement should be reviewed under a de novo standard of review.

Wills in most respects agrees with the State. He agrees that in cases where there is both a factual dispute and a question of whether the facts establish a breach, the court should uphold the circuit court's findings of fact unless clearly erroneous and then review the question of whether the plea agreement was violated under a de novo standard of review. He contends, however, that not every case will present a mixed question of law and fact; in cases where the facts are not in dispute the only issue is a legal one properly reviewed under a de novo standard of review.

We conclude that the appropriate standard of review for the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
44 cases
  • State v. Myers
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • November 20, 1998
    ...whether the State's conduct breached the terms of a plea agreement is a question of law that we review de novo. See State v. Wills, 193 Wis.2d 273, 533 N.W.2d 165 (1995). DISCUSSION A. Violation Of The Plea Agreement Is Reviewable By This Court Mr. Myers argues that he should be allowed to ......
  • State ex rel. Warren v. Schwarz
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • August 27, 1998
    ...this is a question of law which we review de novo, without deference to the conclusions of the circuit court. See State v. Wills, 193 Wis.2d 273, 277, 533 N.W.2d 165 (1995); State v. Ferguson, 166 Wis.2d 317, 320-21, 479 N.W.2d 241 ¶50 The plea stage of a criminal prosecution, and the adjud......
  • State v. Deilke
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2004
    ...is a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Williams, 2002 WI 1, ¶ 5, 249 Wis. 2d 492, 637 N.W.2d 733; State v. Wills, 193 Wis. 2d 273, 277, 533 N.W.2d 165 (1995). In this case, the historical facts leading up to Deilke's convictions are not at issue; rather, we review, de novo, w......
  • State v. Williams
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • January 3, 2002
    ...of plea agreement cases. This court clearly set forth the standard of review an appellate court is to apply in State v. Wills, 193 Wis. 2d 273, 277, 533 N.W.2d 165 (1995). ¶ 5. According to the Wills (1) The terms of the plea agreement and the historical facts of the State's conduct that al......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT