This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Laithon Jeremy Woods,
Hennepin County District Court
File Nos. 05063562 and 05073498
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Michael W. Kunkel,
Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
Laithon Woods challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas for his role as an accomplice to aggravated robbery and to a second aggravated robbery that included a homicide. He claims that his admissions during the plea colloquy failed to establish that his co-defendantintendedto cause the victim’s death. He also asserts that the district court should have exercised its discretion to allow him to withdraw his plea because the state would not have been unduly prejudiced. Because we conclude that the facts admitted during the plea colloquy established that Woods’s co-defendant intended to cause the victim’s death and the district court acted within its discretion by refusing to permit Woods to withdraw his guilty pleas on the day of sentencing, we affirm.
This case arises from crimes committed by Woods and four
accomplices in downtown
They saw this robbery victim again two days later, when Woods and his accomplices were driving in the same area. While the victim ate inside a restaurant, Woods slashed the tires of his car. According to the state, the robbery victim discovered the slashed tires, and his friend, E.S., went to find help. E.S. soon came upon Woods and his band, who decided to rob E.S. also. Woods approached E.S. under the guise of asking for a cigarette. But he drew a handgun, demanding E.S.’s money. E.S. did not comply. Woods pulled the slide mechanism of the gun twice to intimidate E.S., but E.S. continued to refuse. Turner then approached E.S. with a different gun. Woods saw Turner shoot E.S. once, and he saw E.S. fall. Woods ran away. As he ran, he heard Turner discharge his gun five or six times. Woods fled to Atlanta, Georgia.
The state charged Woods with two counts of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery of the first victim. One month later, a grand jury indicted Turner and Woods, charging them each with one count of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and one count of aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder of E.S.
In March 2006 Woods pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree aggravated robbery and to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder. The court accepted his guilty pleas after Woods admitted to the facts. Woods’s plea agreement with the state provided for consecutive sentences resulting in an aggregate sentence of 360 months’ imprisonment. The district court deferred sentencing. Co-defendant Turner pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree aggravated robbery and to one count of second-degree murder, and he received an aggregate sentence of 433 months’ imprisonment. But that same day, Woods sent a letter to the district court requesting it to allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas.
Woods appeared with counsel at his sentencing hearing in May and renewed his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. As grounds for his motion, Woods asserted that he did not understand that the sentences would run consecutively, felt that the aggregate sentence was too harsh, and believed that he was not guilty of intentional murder. The district court denied the motion. It found that the plea petition and the plea colloquy contemplated that the sentences would run consecutively, the detailed nature of the colloquy established a factual basis for both counts, the state would be prejudiced by withdrawal because of challenges in locating witnesses, and the plea agreement was fair. The district court sentenced Woods to 306 months’ imprisonment on the second-degree intentional murder conviction and 54 months’ imprisonment on the first-degree aggravated robbery conviction, to be served consecutively, for an aggregate sentence of 360 months’ imprisonment. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Woods challenges the district court’s refusal to allow him to
withdraw his guilty plea. A defendant
who has entered a guilty plea does not have an absolute right to withdraw
v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (
A constitutionally valid guilty plea “must be accurate,
voluntary, and intelligent (i.e., knowingly and understandingly made).” State
v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (
Woods argues that he entered an inaccurate guilty plea to aiding
and abetting second-degree intentional murder because the facts admitted during
the plea colloquy “are grossly insufficient to support a finding that
Mr. Turner acted with the subjective intent to effect the death of the
victim.” The argument fails. Woods concedes that the plea colloquy
adequately established that the victim’s death was a foreseeable consequence of
the armed robbery. See Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subd. 2 (2004) (providing for
expansive accomplice liability for other reasonably foreseeable crimes committed);
State v. Jackson, 726 N.W.2d 454, 457,
460-61 (Minn. 2007) (holding murder to be reasonably foreseeable as probable
consequence of aggravated robbery where defendant-accomplice acted as lookout
and knew of planned crime). He pleaded guilty
to aiding an intentional murder. Criminal
intent is generally proven by inferences drawn from actions in the totality of
the circumstances. State v. Thompson, 544 N.W.2d 8, 11 (
Woods next argues that his assertion of innocence before sentencing
presented a fair and just basis to allow withdrawal of his guilty pleas. This argument is also unconvincing. Woods’s assertion of innocence at his motion hearing
stemmed from his misconstruing accomplice liability. Woods asserted that he did not fire his gun
and that whatever actions Turner took, he took on his own. This is not an assertion of innocence because
“active participation in the overt act that constitutes the substantive offense
is not required” to impose criminal liability as an accomplice. State
v. Crow, 730 N.W.2d 272, 280 (
Woods maintains that the state would not be unduly prejudiced if he is allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas. But the district court found that several witnesses were homeless and, having been released from their subpoenas, would be difficult to locate. Additionally, key witnesses, including the aggravated robbery victim who identified Woods, moved from the state. The district court properly balanced prejudice and did not abuse its discretion by denying Woods’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.