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State v. Legare

Supreme Court of North Dakota

November 20, 2019

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Chad Vincent Legare, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of McHenry County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Donovan J. Foughty, Judge.

          Joshua E. Frey (argued), State's Attorney, Towner, ND, and Paul R. Emerson (appeared), Assistant Attorney General, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Kiara C. Kraus-Parr, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Chad Vincent Legare appeals from a criminal judgment entered after his guilty plea to attempted murder. We affirm.

         I

         [¶2] Prior to his guilty plea, Legare moved for an order allowing him to present an affirmative defense of justification or excuse. The court denied the motion, stating it would not allow a special jury instruction regarding defense of others when no evidence or anticipated evidence showed there was imminent danger to the woman Legare argued he was defending. Legare pleaded guilty to attempted murder under an Alford plea.

         [¶3] Legare argues his Sixth Amendment right to present a defense was violated and the court erred by not allowing him to present his defense of justification or excuse. Legare requests the conviction be vacated and the order denying his motion in limine reversed.

         II

         A

         [¶4] Legare argues the Menna-Blackledge doctrine applies and he is not precluded from bringing his appeal. The State argues the Menna-Blackledge doctrine does not apply and Legare has no right to appeal from judgment entered upon an unconditional Alford plea. Assuming, without deciding whether the doctrine applies, Legare's claim does not fall within the exception of the Menna-Blackledge doctrine, and he has not preserved his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion in limine seeking permission to argue and instruct the jury on defense of others.

         [¶5] In Class v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 798 (2018), the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the Menna-Blackledge doctrine, stating the "doctrine's basic teaching that 'a plea of guilty to a charge does not waive a claim that-judged on its face-the charge is one which the State may not constitutionally prosecute.'" (citing United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 575 (1989) (quoting Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61, 63, n.2 (1975)). Essentially, "an unconditional guilty plea waives all nonjurisdictional claims with the possible exception of the 'Menna-Blackledge doctrine.'" Class, 138 S.Ct. 798 at 816 (Alito, Kennedy and Thomas dissenting).

         [¶6] The Supreme Court explained a defendant does not relinquish his right to appeal all constitutional determinations by pleading guilty, stating, "As an initial matter, a valid guilty plea 'forgoes not only a fair trial, but also other accompanying constitutional guarantees.'" United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 628-629 (2002). "While those 'simultaneously' relinquished rights include the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination, the jury trial right, and the right to confront accusers, McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 466, [ ], (1969), they do not include 'a waiver of the privileges which exist beyond the confines of the trial.' Mitchell v. United States, 526 U.S. 314, 324, [ ], (1999)." Class, 138 S.Ct. 798 at 805.

         [¶7] Class' argument on appeal was the statute under which he was convicted violated the Constitution. "Here, Class' statutory right directly to appeal his conviction 'cannot in any way be characterized as part of the trial.'" Class, 138 S.Ct. 798 at 805 (citing Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 165 (2012)). The Court noted Class' claims do not focus on case-related constitutional defects that "'occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea.'" Class, 138 S.Ct. 798 at 804-805 (citing Blackledge v. Perry,417 U.S. 21, 30 (1974). "They could not, for example, 'have been "cured" through a new indictment by a properly selected grand jury.'" Id. (citing Tollett v. Henderson,411 U.S. 258, 267 (1973)). "Because the defendant has admitted the charges against him, a guilty plea makes the latter kind of constitutional claim 'irrelevant to the constitutional validity of the conviction.'" Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306, 321 (1983). "But the cases to which we have referred make clear that a defendant's guilty plea does not make irrelevant the kind of constitutional claim ...


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