Criminal Law Blog

Trial Judge Can Reconsider a Ruling Allowing Defendant To Withdraw a Guilty Plea



Michael T. Marshall v. United States (decided August 25, 2016)

Players:  Associate Judges Fisher and Blackburne-Rigsby, Senior Judge Nebeker.  Opinion by Judge Nebeker.  PDS for Mr. Marshall.  Trial Judge:  Rhonda Reid Winston.

Facts:  Before sentencing, Mr. Marshall moved to withdraw his guilty plea to second-degree murder on the ground that he was actually innocent.  Over the government's objection, the trial judge granted the motion to withdraw.  The government moved to reconsider that ruling, proffering that it had discovered recordings of jailhouse calls, made before the motion to withdraw, in which Mr. Marshall purportedly discussed the death of a principal witness against him.  After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge reconsidered her ruling and reinstated Mr. Marshall's guilty plea.

Issue:  Does the trial judge have the authority to reconsider an order granting a withdrawal of a guilty plea and reinstating the guilty plea?

Holding:  Yes.  Adopting the reasoning in United States v. Jerry, 487 F2d. 600 (3d Cir. 1973), the DCCA held that a trial judge has the inherent power to reconsider its interlocutory rulings while it exercises plenary jurisdiction over a case.  The DCCA also held that it "was consonant with justice" to reconsider its ruling in this case, given the trial judge's failure to fully analyze the relevant factors prior to her initial ruling, as well as the jailhouse calls, which called into question the defendant's motive for seeking to withdraw his plea.  DG

Read full opinion here.