Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wide Stance Court Stalls On The Law

The Court in Minnesota has issued it's decision denying Larry Craig's Motion To Withdraw Guilty Plea. It is certainly not unexpected, and I am not surprised in the least. Craig is not a sympathetic defendant here, and for good reason. I think that he was indeed doing exactly what he was accused of. I still think the decision, and indeed the initial charging of the crime, is, and was, legally wrong. While Craig's behavior in the bathroom absolutely could be viewed as consistent with the homosexual cruising lewd behavior he was accused of, it could also be consistent with harmless and innocuous behavior. I don't like Craig one bit, and good riddance to him, but I think it is questionable whether his conduct supported a charge, and see no way it could be seen as proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair court of law. Beyond that, I believe that Craig knew what he was doing in entering his plea, and was just hoping it would slide through the cracks; so, again, not much sympathy there. That being said however, I still think his plea was legally and Constitutionally deficient in it's advisement of right to counsel and factual basis for a finding of guilt on the charge he was found guilty of. These are technical legal arguments, and I do not expect most lay people to fully understand them or agree with them; but as a lawyer, I absolutely consider the plea to be so deficient that it should be set aside. I might also note that I do not even reach further technical arguments under local Minnesota statutes that I also think support the proposition that the plea was defective statutorily. Bottom line, I think it was wrong, but couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

Despite what many people would believe, and the Court seems to accept, the fact that the cops advised Craig of Miranda, or the prosecutor made some comment in a note or phone call, is irrelevant to the argument I am describing. There are simply legal requirements as to what information, and how it is to be delineated, that must be contained within the four corners of the plea document and the official court record of the acceptance of the plea. There was no formal record, whether by court reporter transcription or audio recording, made in this case. In fact, there was no court proceeding, it was simply sent in by mail and considered done. The law should apply equally to those we don't like as those we do like; here, there is no question in my mind whatsoever that the plea proceeding was legally deficient. I fully understand why people either don't understand these arguments, or don't want to believe them, but I stand by them completely.

I understand that many, if not most, may disagree with me; but I still maintain that the plea was deficient as to containing a Constitutionally adequate waiver of counsel and proper factual basis. I also believe that the court improperly bootstrapped extraneous evidence from the police report as support in making it's predetermined decision. The police report was not made a formal part of the factual basis in the plea document (and it often is made a formal part on the record by verbal reference in the transcript, of which there is none here, or by words formally adopting and incorporating it in the actual plea document, again, none of which are present here). This is a very long memorandum authored by a line level county misdemeanor judge in an attempt to support a predetermined incorrect decision if you ask me. The plea form and process supplied by the prosecutor and court here is as lame and goofy as I have ever seen. I have never seen any as bad, in any court I have ever been in, even for a broken taillight petty offense traffic ticket. Oh well, no big deal, the Constitution and due process rule of law do not mean diddly squat anywhere in this country anymore; no reason it should here either I guess.