University of Pittsburgh

David Harris on Judge's Withdraw of Defendant's Plea Without Lawyer Present

Publish Date/Time: 
October 31, 2011

Professor David Harris commented on a case in which a judge withdrew a defendant's guilty plea and incarcerated him, without having the defendant's lawyer present.  After the defendant pled guilty in an agreed-upon plea bargain with prosecutors, the defendant's attorney left the courtroom while the defendant underwent post-plea processing.  When court personnel overheard the defendant muttering his dissatisfaction, the judge brought the defendant forward and asked him if he had any complaint.  The defendant recounted some reasons for his unhappiness with the case.  Without calling for the defendant's lawyer to return to the courtroom, the judge withdrew the defendant's plea and revoked his bond, putting him in jail, even though the defendant had not been held in custody before the plea, and the plea deal had not called for incarceration.  Professor Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that many defendants pleading guilty express "buyer's remorse," but that this was no reason to withdraw a plea, and that any such action certainly call for the presence of the man's attorney. "The judge, obviously, knew [the defendant] was represented, yet...made no effort to get his attorney back there," Professor Harris said. 


Post-Gazette article link

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