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State v. Bowman

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 19, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr., Terry M. Boudreaux, Anne M. Wallis


          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G. Gravois, and Marc E. Johnson


         Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence for aggravated burglary on the basis his guilty plea was constitutionally infirm given the absence of a factual basis for his plea and his proclamation of innocence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         On December 1, 2015, Defendant, Ronald Bowman, and two co-defendants were charged in a bill of information with aggravated burglary. Defendant initially pled not guilty and filed several pre-trial motions, including motions to suppress evidence, statement and identification.[1] On August 10, 2016, Defendant withdrew his not guilty plea and pled guilty as charged. In accordance with the plea agreement, the trial court sentenced Defendant to 15 years imprisonment at hard labor to run concurrently with any other sentence he was currently serving, and the State agreed not to file a multiple offender bill of information against Defendant.

         Defendant subsequently filed an application for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed in favor of an out-of-time appeal. In his sole assignment of error on appeal, Defendant argues that his guilty plea is constitutionally infirm and should be set aside on the basis that the record is void of a factual basis upon which his plea was based. He maintains that the only reference to the facts of this case are from the victim impact statement given by the victim's son prior to the imposition of his sentence. Defendant points out that during the son's statement, he interjected and proclaimed that he "did not do it," which he contends put the trial court on notice that he was coerced into pleading guilty. As such, he seeks to withdraw his guilty plea and have the matter remanded for a jury trial.

         A defendant does not have an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea. State v. Williams, 18-71 (La.App. 5 Cir. 7/31/18); 251 So.3d 1250, 1256. Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 559(A), the trial court may permit a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea at any time before he is sentenced. However, once a defendant is sentenced, only those guilty pleas that are constitutionally infirm may be withdrawn by appeal or post-conviction relief. Williams, supra. A guilty plea is constitutionally infirm if it is not entered freely and voluntarily, if the Boykin[2] colloquy is inadequate, or when a defendant is induced to enter the plea by a plea bargain or what he justifiably believes was a plea bargain and that bargain is not kept. Id.

         A guilty plea normally waives all non-jurisdictional defects in the proceedings leading up to the guilty plea and precludes review of such defects by either appeal or post-conviction relief. State v. Dadney, 14-511 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/16/14); 167 So.3d 55, 59, writ denied, 15-90 (La. 10/30/15); 179 So.3d 614. Such a plea waives any right a defendant might have had to question the merits of the State's case and the factual basis underlying the conviction. State v. Hayes, 15-141 (La.App. 5 Cir. 8/25/15); 173 So.3d 1222, 1224, writ denied, 15-1789 (La. 9/23/16); 200 So.3d 364.

         Louisiana law does not require that a guilty plea be accompanied by a recitation of the factual basis for the crime. State v. Autin, 09-995 (La.App. 5 Cir. 4/27/10); 40 So.3d 193, 196, writ denied, 10-1154 (La. 12/10/10); 51 So.3d 725. "[T]he due process clause imposes no constitutional duty on state trial judges to ascertain a factual basis prior to accepting a guilty plea….Louisiana law, unlike [federal law] has no statutory provision requiring accompaniment of a guilty plea by the recitation of a factual basis." State v. Wynne, 40, 921 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/12/06); 926 So.2d 789, 796 (internal citations omitted). Due process requires a finding of a significant factual basis for a defendant's guilty plea only when a defendant proclaims his innocence or when the trial court is otherwise put on notice that there is a need for an inquiry into the factual basis. Autin, supra at 196-97; State v. Brooks, 38, 963 (La.App. 2 Cir. 9/22/04); 882 So.2d 724, 730, writ denied, 04-2634 (La. 2/18/05); 896 So.2d 30.

         A plea accompanied by a claim of innocence is an Alford[3] plea and puts the trial court on notice that it must ascertain a factual basis to support the plea. State v. Orman, 97-2089 (La. 1/9/98); 704 So.2d 245 (per curiam). In a case involving a bona fide Alford plea, the record must contain "strong evidence of actual guilt." Alford, 400 U.S. at 38, 91 S.Ct. at 167. This Court has recognized that where there is an Alford plea, "constitutional due process requires that the record contain 'strong evidence of actual guilt.'" State v. Nelson, 17-650 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/23/18); 248 So.3d 683, 686 n.7; State v. Bailey, 94-76 (La.App. 5 Cir. 6/28/94); 639 So.2d 860, 864.

         Here, Defendant did not enter an Alford plea, but rather entered an unqualified guilty plea. Specifically, at no time during the plea colloquy did Defendant assert his innocence or specify that he was making a qualified plea under Alford. Thus, the trial court was not put on notice that there was a need for a factual basis before accepting Defendant's guilty plea.

         A review of the record demonstrates that Defendant was aware he was pleading guilty to aggravated burglary. During the plea colloquy with the trial judge, and in the waiver of rights form, Defendant was advised of his right to a jury trial, his right to confrontation, and his privilege against self-incrimination and that he was waiving those rights by pleading guilty. Defendant verbally acknowledged his understanding of these rights and his waiver of them during the plea colloquy. Additionally, ...

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