Thursday, April 02, 2009

New DNA Evidence Allows Plea Withdrawal

US v. Thompson-Riviere: Thompson-Riviere pleaded guilty to being an alien who illegally reentered under 8 USC 1326(b)(4) after being deported to his native Panama. He was born in the Canal Zone in 1965. After entering the plea, however, he learned from a newly discovered relative that his actual father was an American citizen. If that was the case, Thompson-Riviere would also be an American citizen and, thus, could not be an "alien" under 1326 (b)(4) and could not be guilty of the offense. He sought to withdraw his plea, but the district court refused to allow him to do so. Thompson-Riviere was sentenced to 87 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The focus of the court's analysis was one of six factors to be considered when a defendant seeks to withdraw his guilty plea, "whether the defendant has credibly asserted legal innocence." The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in concluding such an assertion had not been made. After a careful analysis of the relevant statutes and a Second Circuit case that dealt with the same language, the court concluded that Thompson-Riviere's evidence, if believed, would render him not guilty of the offense.

Congrats to the Defender office in the EDVa on the win!

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