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State of North Dakota v. Robert Doyle Jones

December 13, 2011

STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA,
PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
ROBERT DOYLE JONES, JR.,
DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Wade L. Webb, Judge. AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

N.D. Supreme Court

State v. Jones,

2011 ND 234

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents][Download as WordPerfect]

Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Robert Doyle Jones Jr. appealed from a district court order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. We affirm.

I.

[¶2] Jones was arrested on March 30, 2011. The next day, the State charged him with three class A misdemeanors: interference with a telephone during an emergency call, criminal mischief, and simple assault (domestic violence, second offense). Jones consented in writing to appear for arraignment via interactive television, and was arraigned, along with other individuals, on April 1, 2011. At the beginning of the hearing, the district court advised that each individual had the following rights: the right to hear the charges against him or her and the penalties associated with those charges; the right to have a lawyer advise him or her before making any statements, answering any questions, or at any time when events happen in his or her case; the right to have a lawyer appointed if he or she could not afford a lawyer; the right to a presumption of innocence; the right to a jury trial; the right to confront and compel witnesses to appear; and the right to remain silent. The district court also explained that if an individual chose to plead guilty, he or she would "give up all of those rights that [the court] ha[d] just explained[.]" The district court also explained that it was not obligated to follow the State's sentencing recommendation, but could impose whatever sentence it believed appropriate, and this sentence could be more harsh than the State's recommendation.

[¶3] Jones's case was called, and the district court asked him if he was present when the court read his rights and whether he understood those rights, and Jones answered that he heard his rights and understood them. The district court advised Jones of the three charges and the maximum and mandatory minimum penalties associated with the charges, which Jones stated he understood. Jones initially indicated he wanted to plead guilty to the simple assault charge and not guilty to the other two charges. At that time, the district court asked the State for its sentencing recommendation, and whether it would give Jones a deal if he pled guilty to the simple assault charge. The State indicated it was not willing to dismiss any of the charges, and stated its sentencing recommendation, on each count, would be "[o]ne year imposed; 180 days served; the balance suspended; one year of supervised probation[,]" along with fines and other conditions, if Jones pled guilty to all three charges. The district court advised Jones it could sentence him anywhere from the minimum to maximum penalty. The district court informed Jones it was his choice whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges, and asked Jones how he wanted to proceed. Jones stated "I'll plead guilty to all three of them, Your Honor, just to get it taken care of[.]"

[¶4] The district court then asked Jones several questions. The court asked if he understood the State's recommendation, "the jail time and plus all the other conditions," to which Jones stated, "Yes, I do, Your Honor." The district court asked if he understood the three charges and if he understood the maximum and minimum penalties associated with the charges, to which Jones responded "Yes." The court asked if he understood the rights the court read earlier in the proceeding, and Jones responded "Yes, I do, Your Honor." Jones then pled guilty to all three charges. The district court then asked, "Sir, do you understand by pleading guilty to all three of these charges, for all three of these charges, you're then giving up all the rights the Court read to you earlier today?" Jones stated, "Yes, I do, Your Honor." The district court then stated:

That includes for all three of these charges you're giving up your right to a jury trial, a trial of any kind on the matters, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, right to an attorney, and all the other rights the Court read to you earlier today. Are you voluntarily giving up those rights, sir? Jones responded, "Yes, I am, Your Honor." The court then asked if he was voluntarily pleading guilty, to which Jones stated "Yes, I am, Your Honor."

[¶5] After hearing the factual basis from the State, the district court found it was sufficient to support Jones's "knowing and voluntary plea of guilty," and Jones "knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights, including his right to an attorney[.]" The State informed the court of Jones's criminal history, which included several convictions. Immediately before the court imposed its sentence, Jones asked, "It is suspended time, ain't it, Your Honor?" The district court then sentenced Jones to concurrent sentences of one year of imprisonment, with Jones to serve 120 days and the balance of time suspended for two years, on each count. Jones then asked if his sentence was suspended, to which the court stated "No, not all of it." Jones then indicated he misunderstood the State's recommendation and wanted to plead not guilty. The district court stated it believed the State was clear in its explanation, and the court had repeated it. Jones then stated he had a head injury and was on several medications. The district court then indicated it did not find a fair and just reason to allow Jones to withdraw his pleas, and the proceeding was adjourned.

[¶6] Jones retained private counsel and moved to withdraw his guilty pleas. A hearing was held on April 26, 2011. At the hearing, Jones testified he did not understand what was happening at the arraignment, and believed the State's recommendation had been for an all-suspended sentence. Jones testified several times that he would not have pled guilty if he had heard the sentence involved imprisonment. Jones testified he sustained a head injury in 1999 from which he suffered permanent brain damage, and was currently taking ten different medications. Jones stated he was not on his medications at the arraignment, he had not received medication for two days prior to the arraignment, and he didn't clearly understand the proceedings because of his brain injury and lack of medication. Regarding some of his previous convictions, Jones stated he pled guilty to all of his charges in 2009 and 2010, and he was represented by counsel when he pled guilty to those charges.

[ΒΆ7] The district court denied Jones's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. The district court indicated it believed Jones had some cognitive impairment and he may be of a lower level of functioning, but this did not mean he could not make a free, knowing, and voluntary decision. The court also noted that, while there were some medical reports in the record, the court did not have a doctor's opinion to indicate Jones was not fit to proceed or unable to make a knowing and voluntary decision about pleading guilty. The court stated Jones seemed fit to proceed at the current hearing, and also seemed fit to proceed at arraignment. The court indicated it was comfortable Jones understood the proceedings because of the colloquy that took place pursuant to N.D.R.Crim.P. 11. The court noted that Jones was read his rights, the charges and possible penalties were explained, and Jones indicated he understood he was waiving his rights by pleading guilty. The court also noted that the State's recommendation was explained to Jones multiple times, and it understood Jones's references to all-suspended time to be ...


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