This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Justin Paul Farnsworth,
Filed September 5, 2006
Toussaint, Chief Judge
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Scott A. Hersey, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for appellant)
Mark D. Nyvold, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite W-1610, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
In this pretrial appeal, the State of
The ultimate decision on a motion to
withdraw a guilty plea “is left to the sound discretion of the [district]
court, and [that decision] will be reversed only in the rare case in which the
appellate court can fairly conclude that the [district] court abused its
discretion.” Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (
Here, the district court reserved
its ruling on Farnsworth’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea and scheduled a
hearing on his motion to suppress his confession. The court reasoned that, if it determined
that the confession was inadmissible, it would grant Farnsworth’s withdrawal
motion. But a valid guilty plea waives
all non-jurisdictional defects, including the involuntariness of a
confession. See State v. Ford, 397 N.W.2d 875, 878 (
A district court may allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing if it is “fair and just to do so, giving due consideration to the reasons advanced by the defendant in support of the motion and any prejudice the granting of the motion would cause the prosecution by reason of actions taken in reliance upon the defendant’s plea.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2. A defendant does not have an absolute right to withdraw a plea before sentencing, and the burden is on the defendant to prove that he is entitled to withdrawal under this subdivision. Kim, 434 N.W.2d at 266.
To be valid, a guilty plea must be
accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, that is, knowingly and understandingly
made. State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (
Farnsworth moved to withdraw his
guilty plea on several grounds, among them the ground that his attorney failed
to provide him with a copy of his confession prior to his plea. A defendant has no absolute right to receive
a copy of a statement or confession, provided that the confession is made
available to his attorney for review.
Farnsworth further claimed that he was entitled to withdraw his plea because he was not “fully apprised” of the issues relating to his confession and of the potential challenges that could have been made to that confession, particularly the challenges to the officer’s statements that he was not trying to put Farnsworth away but was trying to obtain treatment for Farnsworth and that he did not know if Farnsworth would have to go to jail and lose his kids. Farnsworth argued that “[n]ot being made aware of the issues that existed in connection with his statement made the waiver of this suppression issue involuntary and likewise made [Farnsworth’s] plea unknowing and unintelligent.”
But the record and the findings made by the district court establish that Farnsworth had several discussions with his attorney prior to pleading guilty during which his confession and his rights were discussed. While Farnsworth may claim that these discussions lacked sufficient detail, an attorney need not discuss trial strategy in detail with a client. See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.4(a), (b) (comment).
The validity of confessions induced
by empathetic techniques and implied promises is often a complex legal
In addition, at the plea hearing, Farnsworth specifically acknowledged that he could have a hearing to “test the constitutional admissibility of certain evidence” prior to trial and that he understood that by pleading guilty he was giving up that right. The record thus establishes that Farnsworth entered into a counseled plea, that he understood his rights, and that he voluntarily waived those rights.
Under the circumstances, the district court abused its discretion when it allowed Farnsworth to withdraw his guilty plea. We reverse the district court’s decision to allow Farnsworth to withdraw his guilty plea. The plea is reinstated and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
Farnsworth asserts that he does not claim ineffective assistance of counsel and
that his plea withdrawal motion never mentions this as a ground for
withdrawal. Even if Farnsworth’s claims
are analyzed on this basis, however, we would still conclude that Farnsworth
has failed to meet his burden:
Farnsworth’s attorney committed no professional errors, and his actions
fall within the range of reasonable assistance.
See Strickland v. Washington,
 The state claims it will be seriously prejudiced if Farnsworth is allowed to withdraw his plea. The state cites the continuing trauma to the victim, who was only nine years old at the time the offenses took place years ago, and the difficulty in finding and subpoenaing witnesses who were ready for trial but released when Farnsworth pleaded guilty. Even if the prejudice to the state is not great, it exists, and it further supports the conclusion that Farnsworth failed to prove he should be allowed to withdraw his plea.