Appellate Division, Fourth Department
People v. Richardson
Appealed from Jefferson County Court
Background: The defendant pleaded guilty to Attempted Assault first degree pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, by which a defendant pleads guilty yet does not admit the facts of the crime. At the time of the plea, the prosecutor said that should the case go to trial, four witnesses would testify on having seen the defendant stab the victim. On appeal the defendant contended the guilty plea should not have been accepted.
Ruling: The conviction is reversed and returned to the county court. An Alford plea is allowed only when it is the product of a voluntary and rational choice and the record before the court contains strong evidence of actual guilt. The record did not support the prosecutor’s statement. Three police statements were equivocal and more exculpatory than inculpatory. The one witness who made a positive identification told the police the following day that she might have been mistaken. The record did not contain the requisite strong evidence of actual guilt.
Joseph T. Jarzembek for the defendant, and Kristyna S. Mills, Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office