List of people who entered an Alford plea

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The following is an incomplete list of notable individuals that have entered an Alford plea. An Alford plea (also referred to as Alford guilty plea[1][2][3] and Alford doctrine[4][5][6]) in the law of the United States is a guilty plea in criminal court,[7][8][9] where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence.[10][11][12] Under the Alford plea the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.[4][13][14][15][16]

Background[edit]

Supreme Court case[edit]

Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote the majority opinion

This form of plea is derived from the 1970 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case North Carolina v. Alford.[17] Henry Alford of Forsyth County, North Carolina was indicted for first degree murder in 1963.[18][19] At the time under North Carolina law a conviction of first degree murder automatically brought with it the death penalty, unless the jury recommended otherwise, in which case the defendant would receive a mandatory life sentence.[20][21] Alford said he was innocent, but the prosecution had significant evidence to the contrary.[19] Witnesses stated Alford had said he wanted to kill the victim, then grabbed his gun and left his residence.[19] Witnesses said that Alford subsequently declared he had killed the victim.[19] His defense advised Alford to plead to the crime of second degree murder because of the belief that the strong evidence would lead to a conviction.[19] He pled guilty to second degree murder in 1963.[18] He did so in order to avoid a possible death sentence.[18] Alford maintained he was innocent of the crime itself, but feared going to trial because of the capital punishment associated with the charge of first degree murder.[22] He was given a sentence of thirty years in jail.[18]

Alford appealed, and argued that his conviction for second degree murder should be overturned because he said the plea was coercive in nature.[23] The matter came before the Supreme Court, and in its ruling the court said that the trial judge in Alford's criminal case was appropriate in having accepted the defendant's plea of guilty.[18] The Court said that the decision to plead guilty while maintaining his innocence was a reasonable choice for Alford to have made at the time.[23] Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote the majority opinion.[18] The Supreme Court case was decided 5–3.[18] "[T]hat he would not have pleaded except for the opportunity to limit the possible penalty does not necessarily demonstrate that the plea of guilty was not the product of a free and rational choice", said the Supreme Court decision.[22] The Court ruled that a plea of guilty that was "a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action" was not a coercive decision.[21] Justice White wrote that, "Express admission of guilt is not constitutional requisite to imposition of criminal penalty."[20] In 1975, Alford died while in jail at the age of 57.[19]

Usage of plea[edit]

When a defendant indicates an intention to plead guilty by Alford plea, the judge asks two questions: "Do you now consider it to be in your best interest to plead guilty?" and "Do you understand that upon your 'Alford plea' you will be treated as being guilty whether or not you admit that you are in fact guilty?"[19] Prosecutors and defense lawyers characterize Alford pleas as a required method of lessening pressure of the nature of the justice process.[17] Both parties get to maneuver around not knowing what the outcome could be at trial, and are able to come to a resolution.[17] The Alford plea does not itself affect the sentencing process, and the convicted individual is sentenced just as if he had entered a normal guilty plea.[18][20] The defendant may be hurt at the sentencing process by having used an Alford plea, as the judge may see this as a sign that the defendant has not accepted responsibility for his actions.[24] Duke University law professor Robert P. Mosteller commented on this possible effect at sentencing, "They get you more harm than good."[24] Orange County, North Carolina District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the frequency of Alford pleas is higher with criminal cases involving a charge of a sexual offense, as the defendant does not wish to admit to their family and the public that they were responsible for the crime.[24] Psychologist Bob Carbo noted that sexual offenders undergoing treatment for their actions after being ordered to so under terms of their Alford plea cause problems because the first step in therapy is to take responsibility for committing the crime.[24] "We can't help this person if they're not willing to admit they did something", said Carbo.[24]

John Gulash, a lawyer on the Connecticut State Bar Association's criminal justice executive committee, acknowledged, "It's unfortunate, but it's a reality that you will receive, in most instances, a much more severe penalty if you lost after trial than if you pled before the trial."[17] Defendants gain the potential benefit of being able to tell possible employers after their conviction in a crime that they maintained their innocence and only pled guilty under the Alford doctrine because of the nature of the situation and the evidence presented.[17] Professor of law at Quinnipiac University and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Meyer said of the Alford doctrine, "It's part of an idealist vision of a judicial system that it is for the adjudication of truth."[17] Meyer commented on what would happen were the Alford doctrine to become no longer applicable, "My suspicion is if the state could dispense with the Alford doctrine, over time, it probably wouldn't change very much the rate at which cases plead out. More than 95 percent of cases in federal court go by guilty plea. It's difficult to make the case that without the Alford doctrine, there would be an immense number of defendants who would end up going to trial."[17] Raleigh, North Carolina lawyer Wade Smith said that the frequency of application of the Alford plea is, "Fairly often. There are many times when people don't want to plead guilty, but then do, in fact, plead guilty."[18]

List[edit]

A[edit]

  • Henry Alford – indicted for first degree murder in 1963; maintained his innocence but pled guilty to second degree murder due to the significance of the evidence.[25] He pled guilty to second degree murder so as to avoid the death penalty.[23] Alford appealed, and the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling that trial courts are allowed to accept pleas of guilty from criminal defendants even if the defendants do not wish to admit to guilty, and wish to plead guilty in order to take advantage of a plea deal.[25] This type of plea described by the 1970 ruling of the Supreme Court became known as the Alford plea.[25]

B[edit]

  • Scott Bairstow – actor of Party of Five fame, entered Alford plea in 2003 to second-degree assault; was initially charged with second-degree child rape of 12-year old girl.[26] He received a sentence of four months in jail for the assault.[27]
  • Jason Baldwin. Arkansas, 2011 One of the West Memphis Three.[28] Along with Echols and Misskelley, he was convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in 1994. He was sentenced to life without parole. He entered the plea to get Echols off death row. He was sentenced to time served: 18 years and 78 days and released that same day.
  • Michael Bray – American anti-abortion activist; he was arrested by U.S. federal law enforcement from the ATF in connection with an anti-abortion bombing.[31] He entered an Alford plea in 1987 and received a prison sentence of six years.[32] He served just over forty-six months in a federal jail.[32]

C[edit]

  • Raymond Clark III, the perpetrator in the murder of Annie Le.
  • H. Brent Coles – former Mayor of Boise, Idaho; entered an Alford plea to two felony charges of presenting a fraudulent account or voucher and misuse of public money by officers.[36] The plea was made in accordance with a deal by the State Attorney General of Idaho.[36] Coles had resigned from his position as mayor amidst complaints filed against him by the State Attorney General's office.[37]

E[edit]

  • Damien Echols, Arkansas, 2011. One of the West Memphis Three.[28] Along with Baldwin and Misskelley, he was convicted in 1994 for the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys. He was sentenced to death but always maintained his innocence. After entering the plea, he was sentenced to time served: 18 years and 78 days, and was released that same day.

F[edit]

J[edit]

  • Adam Jones – professional American cornerback; entered an Alford plea in 2008 to a felony charge of obstruction of a police officer involving an incident from February 2006.[42] After the plea deal involving the incident with the police officer in Georgia, Jones received a felony conviction.[43][44]

L[edit]

M[edit]

  • Lee Boyd Malvo – entered Alford plea in 2004 related to Beltway sniper attacks, as part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.[49] Malvo's Alford plea was treated as a guilty plea at his sentencing hearing, and he received a term of life in prison for charges of murder and attempted murder.[50]
  • Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Arkansas, 2011, One of the West Memphis Three.[28] Along with Echols and Baldwin, he was convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in 1994. He was sentenced to life in prison. After entering the plea, he was sentenced to time served: 18 years and 78 days, and was released that same day.
  • Jeff Monsonmixed martial arts fighter, entered an Alford plea related to the act of using spray-paint to add graffiti to the armed services recruitment center in Lacey, Washington.[51] In addition to the Alford plea to spray-painting the military recruiting building, Monson also pleaded guilty to first-degree malicious mischief for painting an anarchist symbol at the Washington State Capitol.[52]
  • John Michael Montgomerycountry music singer, entered an Alford plea in 2006, on charges related to drunken driving.[53] Montgomery acknowledged that prosecutors in the case had sufficient evidence to convict him of the charges, agreed to pay fines and court costs and was ordered to finish an education session about alcohol usage.[54]

P[edit]

R[edit]

  • Tina Resch, also known as Christina Boyer – entered an Alford plea to charges of aggravated assault and felony murder of Amber Bennet, Resch's three-year-old daughter.[64] She received a jail sentence of life plus 20 years.[64] Resch had previously been known for being related to possible poltergeist activity, and she was studied by a parapsychologist.[65]
  • Koren RobinsonAmerican football wide receiver, entered an Alford plea in 2007 related to a felony charge of evading police, after an incident involving a high speed car chase.[66] Under a plea deal, Robinson agreed to plead guilty to one felony charge of fleeing police, and prosectuors agreed to dismiss other charges including drunken driving, reckless driving and driving without a licence.[67]
  • Kelly Ryan – fitness professional, entered an Alford plea in 2008 in the death of Melissa James.[70] James died in 2005; her body was found in a luxury vehicle in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada.[71] As part of the Alford plea, Ryan pled guilty to battery with a deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm.[71]

V[edit]

  • Vince Vaughn – actor; with Scott Rosenberg, entered an Alford plea after altercation at a bar in North Carolina while filming Domestic Disturbance.[68][69]

W[edit]

  • West Memphis Three, Arkansas 2011. See Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Jason Baldwin.[28] All three were convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in 1994. In 2011, although DNA exonerated them, they agreed to an Alford plea to get Echols off death row and get out of prison. They maintain that they are innocent and will continue with their investigations on looking for the real killer and clear their names. As part of the deal, they were released that same day, they must serve 10 years probation, cannot seek civil litigations against the state, cannot profit off their story, and will be sent back to prison for another 21 years if they re-offend.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Editor, The Montana Lawyer (February 1998). "Regular Features: Discipline Corner: Disbarment follows four years of disciplinary action against Kalispell lawyer". The Montana Lawyer (State Bar of Montana) 23: 23. 
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  5. ^ Thompson, Norma (2006). Unreasonable Doubt. University of Missouri Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-8262-1638-2. 
  6. ^ Neighbors, Ira; Anne Chambers; Ellen Levin; Gila Nordman; Cynthia Tutrone (2002). Social Work and the Law. Routledge. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7890-1548-8. 
  7. ^ Scheb, John (2008). Criminal Procedure. Wadsworth Publishing. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-495-50386-6. 
  8. ^ Anderson, James F. (2002). Criminal Justice and Criminology: Concepts and Terms. University Press of America. p. 7. ISBN 0-7618-2224-0. 
  9. ^ Wild, Susan Ellis (2006). Webster's New World Law Dictionary. Webster's New World. p. 21. ISBN 0-7645-4210-9. 
  10. ^ Bibas, Stephanos (2003). "Harmonizing Substantive Criminal Law Values and Criminal Procedure: The Case of Alford and Nolo Contendere Pleas". Cornell Law Review 88 (6). doi:10.2139/ssrn.348681. 
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  12. ^ Gardner, Thomas J.; Terry M. Anderson (2009). Criminal Evidence: Principles and Cases. Wadsworth Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 0-495-59924-7. 
  13. ^ Fisher, George (2003). Plea Bargaining's Triumph: A History of Plea Bargaining in America. Stanford University Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-8047-5135-8. 
  14. ^ Davidson, Michael J. (1999). A Guide to Military Criminal Law. US Naval Institute Press. p. 56. ISBN 1-55750-155-6. 
  15. ^ Raymond, Walter John (1992). Dictionary of Politics: Selected American and Foreign Political and Legal Terms. Brunswick Publishing Corporation. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-55618-008-8. 
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  17. ^ a b c d e f g Potts, Monica (October 18, 2009). "Alford plea a common method of resolving cases". The Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut). 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ingram, David (February 20, 2007). "The Alford Plea". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina). p. 9A. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Weigl, Andrea (February 21, 2007). "What is an alford plea ?". The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina: The News & Observer Pub. Co.). p. A12. 
  20. ^ a b c Susnjara, Bob (August 15, 1997). "Alford plea often benefits both sides". The News-Sun (Waukegan, Illinois). p. A2. 
  21. ^ a b Hogan, Dick (November 8, 1992). "Supreme Court case set plea". The Gazette (Cedar Rapids-Iowa City: Cedar Rapids Gazette). p. A19. 
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  23. ^ a b c Ford, Steve (February 25, 2007). "Follow the bouncing plea bargain". The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina: The News & Observer Pub. Co.). p. A26. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f Ovaska, Sarah (February 23, 2007). "Alford pleas fuse dignity, denial". The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina: The News & Observer Pub. Co.). p. B1. 
  25. ^ a b c Richter, Shawna; John Mangalonzo (June 9, 2008). "History behind the Alford plea". The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa). p. 4A. 
  26. ^ Seattle Post-Intelligencer staff (December 6, 2003). "Actor pleads to lesser charge in child-rape case". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (www.seattlepi.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  27. ^ Whitely, Peyton (January 17, 2004). "Actor gets 4 months for assault in sex case". The Seattle Times (seattletimes.nwsource.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  28. ^ a b c d New York Times Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas (2011-08-19)
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  33. ^ a b Levy, Paul (September 3, 2005). "Former Viking's charges reduced; In plea, Brown won't face trial on Arctic Blast sexual-assault charge". Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota). 
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  35. ^ Meryhew, Richard (February 15, 2006). "Appeals Court says no deal to Arctic Blast plea bargain – Former Vikings star may have to face charges of criminal sexual assault after all". Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota). p. 4B. 
  36. ^ a b Cooper, Bob (November 3, 2003). "Coles Enters Guilty Pleas on Two Felony Charges". Office of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. State of Idaho. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  37. ^ The Spokesman-Review staff (February 15, 2003). "Boise Mayor, already under fire, quits amid Olympic charges". The Spokesman-Review. p. B1. 
  38. ^ a b Stockwell, Jamie (August 10, 2006). "30-Year Sentence In Slaying Of Student". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  39. ^ Associated Press (November 18, 2008). "Judge refuses to throw out sentence in Taylor Behl murder". Richmond Times-Dispatch (WTOP). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
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  41. ^ Bresnahan, John (November 26, 2007). "Filner Cops To Trespassing, Will Pay Fine". Politico (CBS News). Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
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  48. ^ Associated Press (March 18, 2008). "Reno jury returns with $590 million judgement against Mack". San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com). 
  49. ^ Associated Press (October 26, 2004). "Malvo pleads to 2002 sniper killing". MSNBC (www.msnbc.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
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  51. ^ Associated Press (July 29, 2009). "Ex-UFC fighter Monson pleads guilty to mischief, could face jail". USA Today (www.usatoday.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  52. ^ UPI staff (July 29, 2009). "Fighting champ admits anarchist graffiti". United Press International (www.upi.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  53. ^ Associated Press (August 24, 2006). "Singer makes plea deal". The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana). 
  54. ^ Seattle Post-Intelligencer staff (August 24, 2006). "This may be the start of a hit song. Title: "You Say I'm Guilty, I Say I'm Not."". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. E2. 
  55. ^ a b Tomasson, Chris (March 8, 2006). "Patterson registers as a sex offender in Colorado". Rocky Mountain News. p. 8C. 
  56. ^ a b Duran, Sarah; Frank Hughes (May 16, 2001). "Patterson to serve jail time – 1-year sentence: Sonic to serve 15 days, plus register as sex offender". The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington). p. C1. 
  57. ^ Spokane Chronicle staff (May 11, 1988). "Bhagwan". Spokane Chronicle. p. A1. 
  58. ^ Staff (2007). "Oregon History: Chronology – 1952 to 2002". Oregon Blue Book (Directory and Fact Book compiled by the Oregon State Archives). Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
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  61. ^ Associated Press (December 21, 2002). "Last fugitive in case against Oregon cult members appears in court". CNN (Time Warner). 
  62. ^ Ostrom, Carol M. (December 11, 1995). "Years Later, Bitterness Endures At Rancho Rajneesh". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  63. ^ Lattin, Don (June 15, 2005). "10-hour wait, 3-second hug: Motherly guru draws throngs of seekers to East Bay temple". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  64. ^ a b Horn, Sue (January 20, 2008). "The real story of Christina Resch Boyer: Did a "perfect storm" of events lead to life imprisonment?". Carroll Star News (Carrollton, Georgia: The Georgia Rail and Press Company). p. 1. 
  65. ^ Roll, William (December 2004). "Tina Resch: Unleashed". Fortean Times (www.forteantimes.com). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  66. ^ AP staff (January 24, 2007). "Former Seahawks wide receiver enters plea in police chase". AP Alert – Washington (Associated Press). 
  67. ^ Canadian Press staff (January 23, 2007). "Former Vikings receiver Robinson enters plea in police chase". The Canadian Press. 
  68. ^ a b The Providence Journal staff (June 5, 2001). "People". The Providence Journal. p. F2. 
  69. ^ a b Dayton Daily News staff (June 2, 2001). "Vince Vaughn, writer enter pleas in brawl". Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio). p. 2A. 
  70. ^ Ritter, Ken (August 22, 2008). "Pro bodybuilders sentenced in aide's 2005 death in Vegas". AP Alert (Associated Press). 
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Further reading[edit]

  • McConville, Mike (1998). "Plea Bargainings: Ethics and Politics". Journal of Law and Society 25 (4): 562–587. doi:10.1111/1467-6478.00103. 
  • Shipley, Curtis J. (1987). "The Alford Plea: A Necessary But Unpredictable Tool for the Criminal Defendant". Iowa Law Review 72: 1063. ISSN 0021-0552. 
  • Ward, Bryan H. (2003). "A Plea Best Not Taken: Why Criminal Defendants Should Avoid the Alford Plea". Missouri Law Review 68: 913. ISSN 0026-6604. 

External links[edit]

Court cases