Watkins v. People, No. 81SC82

Docket NºNo. 81SC82
Citation655 P.2d 834
Case DateDecember 20, 1982
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 834

655 P.2d 834
William WATKINS, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
No. 81SC82.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
Dec. 20, 1982.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 10, 1983.

Page 835

J. Gregory Walta, Colorado State Public Defender, James England, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for petitioner.

J.D. MacFarlane, Atty. Gen., Richard F. Hennessey, Deputy Atty. Gen., Mary J. Mullarkey, Sol. Gen., R. Michael Mullins, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for respondent.

QUINN, Justice.

We granted certiorari to review an unpublished decision of the court of appeals which affirmed the adjudication of the petitioner William Watkins (defendant) as an habitual criminal. The court of appeals held that the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to suppress two prior felony convictions which served as the predicate for the habitual criminal adjudication. We conclude that one of these convictions, a 1974 conviction for conspiracy to commit escape, 1 was based upon a constitutionally infirm plea of guilty. We therefore reverse the judgment and remand the case for resentencing.

I.

The defendant was charged in the trial court with aggravated robbery, 2 conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, 3 menacing, 4 and habitual criminality. 5 The habitual

Page 836

criminal counts consisted of a 1969 conviction for second degree burglary, a 1971 conviction for aggravated robbery and a 1974 conviction for conspiracy to commit escape by a felon. At the conclusion of the first phase of the bifurcated trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts to all substantive charges. During the second or habitual criminal phase of the trial the defendant moved to suppress his prior convictions on the ground that they were the result of constitutionally defective pleas of guilty. In support of his motion the defendant offered and the court received into evidence transcripts of the providency hearings on the prior pleas of guilty.

The transcript of the providency hearing of the 1974 conviction, which is critical to this appeal, disclosed that the prosecutor in that case agreed to accept a guilty plea to the crime of conspiracy to commit escape in exchange for the dismissal of all other pending counts. 6 The transcript disclosed that the district attorney read in open court the proposed count which stated as follows:

"A.L. Herrman, Jr., District Attorney, in the name and by the authority of the People of the State of Colorado further informs the Court that on this 8th day of July, A.D.1973, in the County of Jefferson, State of Colorado, William Tyrone Watkins, with the intent to promote and facilitate a commission of the crime of escape as defined by 40-8-208, as amended, C.R.S.1963, did unlawfully, feloniously agree with [a] person or persons to the District Attorney unknown that one or more of them would engage in conduct which constitutes said crime and an attempt to commit said crime, and did agree to aid such other person or persons in the planning and commission and attempted commission of said crime, and did commit an overt act in pursuance of such conspiracy, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Colorado."

The court thereafter advised the defendant of the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty and then inquired of the defendant as follows:

"THE COURT: ... Mr. Watkins, in this fourth count it is alleged that you conspired with others to commit the crime of escape or to attempt to commit the crime of escape. Do you understand the nature of the charge that is involved in this fourth count?

"MR. WATKINS: Yes, your Honor, I do."

No further explanation of the crime or its elements was given to the defendant. After advising the defendant of the possibility of a five to forty year sentence for the crime, the court accepted the plea.

The trial court in the instant case suppressed the defendant's 1969 conviction for second degree burglary but denied suppression of the other two felony convictions. The jury returned verdicts finding the defendant a twice previously convicted felon as charged in the two habitual criminal counts. The court sentenced the defendant to concurrent terms of thirty to thirty-five years for aggravated robbery, an indeterminate term not to exceed eight years for conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, an indeterminate term not to exceed four years for felony menacing, and a term of thirty to thirty-five years for habitual criminality. On appeal the court of appeals rejected the defendant's claim with respect to the 1974 guilty plea. After noting that the record of the providency hearing showed an affirmative response by the defendant to the trial court's inquiry whether he understood the nature of the charge, the court of appeals summarily concluded: "[the] defendant's contention that his plea

Page 837

was invalid because the court did not explain the nature of the charge and the elements of the offense is also without merit."

The defendant assigns as error the trial court's refusal to suppress the 1971 and 1974 felony convictions. He asserts that both convictions were obtained in violation of due process of law, U.S. Const. Amend. XIV; Colo. Const. Art. II, Sec. 25. We agree that the 1974 conviction for conspiracy to commit escape was based upon a constitutionally defective plea of guilty and, in view of this disposition, we find it unnecessary to consider the validity of the 1971 conviction. 7

II.

A prior conviction obtained in violation of a constitutional right of the accused cannot be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding to support guilt or to enhance punishment. See, e.g., Loper v. Beto, 405 U.S. 473, 92 S.Ct. 1014, 31 L.Ed.2d 374 (1972); Burgett v. Texas, 389 U.S. 109, 88 S.Ct. 258, 19 L.Ed.2d 319 (1967); People v. Quintana, 634 P.2d 413 (Colo.1981); People v. Roybal (Roybal I), Colo., 618 P.2d 1121 (1980); People v. Roybal (Roybal II), Colo., 617 P.2d 800 (1980). A plea of guilty involves a waiver of several constitutional rights, Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969); People v. Meyers, Colo., 617 P.2d 808 (1980), and if a conviction based upon a guilty plea is to satisfy constitutional requirements of admissibility the record must establish that the plea was voluntarily and understandingly made, Henderson v. Morgan, 426 U.S. 637, 96 S.Ct. 2253, 49 L.Ed.2d 108 (1976); Roybal II, supra. An understandingly made plea of guilty requires that the record affirmatively show the defendant's understanding of the critical elements of the crime to which the plea is tendered. E.g., People v. Meyers, supra; People v. Gorniak, 197 Colo. 289, 593 P.2d 349 (1979); People v. Gleason, 180 Colo. 71, 502 P.2d 69 (1972); People v. Colosacco, 177 Colo. 219, 493 P.2d 650 (1972). Our prior cases hold that, to satisfy this requirement, the court should explain the critical elements "in terms which are understandable to the defendant." People v. Cumby, 178 Colo. 31, 33, 495 P.2d 223, 224 (1972); see also, e.g., People v. Riney, 176 Colo. 221, 489 P.2d 1304 (1971) ("such an explanation and a determination by the trial judge that the accused understands the nature of the charge is required by ... the Constitution of the United States"). Even where the record shows defense counsel has given some explanation to his client of the count to which the plea of guilty is tendered, we have held that this showing by itself does not constitute the type of demonstration sufficient to justify the conclusion that the defendant knew the critical elements of the charge when the plea of guilty was entered. People v. Mason, Jr., 176 Colo. 544, 491 P.2d 1383 (1971).

In attacking the constitutional validity of a prior conviction in habitual criminal proceedings, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the challenged conviction was unconstitutionally obtained. People v. Quintana, supra; see also People v. Mascarenas, 632 P.2d 1028 (Colo.1981); People v. Shaver, 630 P.2d 600 (Colo.1981); Roybal I, supra. A prima facie showing in the context of this case means evidence which, when considered in a light most favorable to the defendant with all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor, will permit the court to conclude that the defendant's plea of guilty was not understandingly made. See People v. Quintana, supra; People v. Mascarenas, supra; People v. Shaver, supra. Once a prima facie showing is made, the conviction is not admissible unless the prosecution establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the conviction was obtained in accordance with the defendant's constitutional rights. Id.

Page 838

III.

The admissibility of the defendant's 1974 conviction must be evaluated in light of the foregoing principles. The transcript of the 1974 providency hearing, at which the defendant pled guilty and on the basis of which a judgment of conviction was entered, fails to show that the court explained any...

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44 practice notes
  • People v. Wiedemer, No. 92SA231
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • May 10, 1993
    ...use of that conviction in the proceeding and does not vacate the judgment. See Marquez, 692 P.2d at 1101 n. 17; Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982). The defendant also notes the different burdens of proof applicable in the two types of challenges. Compare People v. Hrapski, 718......
  • Parke v. Raley, No. 91-719
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 1, 1992
    ...but that shifts the burden back to the prosecution once the defendant satisfies his burden of production. See, e.g., Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982) (guilty plea); State v. O'Neil, 91 N.M. 727, 729, 580 P.2d 495, 497 (Ct.App.1978) (uncounseled conviction); State v. Triptow,......
  • People v. Romero, No. 82SA566
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 21, 1985
    ...be considered understanding unless the court has explained to the defendant the critical elements of the crime charged. Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982). The court owes no less to a defendant waiving his right to In addition, it is preferable that the court inquire on the re......
  • Waits v. People, No. 84SC391
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • September 8, 1986
    ...the intent requirement, of the crime to which the plea is tendered. Wilson, 708 P.2d 792; Cabral, 698 P.2d 234; Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834 The district court gave the following attempted first degree murder advisement: Q. In Case CR-11604, in Count 1, Mr. Waits, you are charged that on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • People v. Wiedemer, No. 92SA231
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • May 10, 1993
    ...use of that conviction in the proceeding and does not vacate the judgment. See Marquez, 692 P.2d at 1101 n. 17; Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982). The defendant also notes the different burdens of proof applicable in the two types of challenges. Compare People v. Hrapski, 718......
  • Parke v. Raley, No. 91-719
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 1, 1992
    ...but that shifts the burden back to the prosecution once the defendant satisfies his burden of production. See, e.g., Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982) (guilty plea); State v. O'Neil, 91 N.M. 727, 729, 580 P.2d 495, 497 (Ct.App.1978) (uncounseled conviction); State v. Triptow,......
  • People v. Romero, No. 82SA566
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 21, 1985
    ...be considered understanding unless the court has explained to the defendant the critical elements of the crime charged. Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834, 837 (Colo.1982). The court owes no less to a defendant waiving his right to In addition, it is preferable that the court inquire on the re......
  • Waits v. People, No. 84SC391
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • September 8, 1986
    ...the intent requirement, of the crime to which the plea is tendered. Wilson, 708 P.2d 792; Cabral, 698 P.2d 234; Watkins v. People, 655 P.2d 834 The district court gave the following attempted first degree murder advisement: Q. In Case CR-11604, in Count 1, Mr. Waits, you are charged that on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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