According to the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Jackson County Prosecutor was entitled to rescind its sentence agreement after the Defendant provided conflicting testimony about his co-defendant’s involvement in the crime.
People v Anderson
Michigan Court of Appeals, Docket No. 339725
Released November 15, 2018; Approved for Publication January 15, 2019
Facts: The Defendant, Josephus Anderson, was convicted of several counts following a jury trial, including Assault with Intent to Rob While Armed and Felony Firearm. While his appeal was pending, he agreed to testify against his brother, Willie, at Willie’s trial. The Jackson County Prosecutor agreed to a substantially shorter sentence for Josephus exchange for his agreement “to testify truthfully that Willie participated in the home invasion for which [Josephus] was convicted.” (slip op at 2). Josephus testified against his brother at trial, and his sentence was reduced. Originally, Josephus had been sentenced to 81 to 180 months for the Assault and 24 months for the Felony Firearm. Following his testimony at Willie’s trial, the sentence for the Assault was reduced to 120 days to be served consecutive to the 24 months for Felony Firearm.
Later, Josephus testified, at a hearing on Willie’s Motion for New Trial, that he had lied at Willie’s trial and that Willie was not involved in the robbery. Based on this testimony, the Jackson County Prosecutor rescinded the sentence agreement, and the trial court reimposed the original sentence.
Issue: Josephus Anderson argued that “the trial court erred by granting the prosecutor’s motion to rescind the plea agreement.” (slip op at 3).
Holding: The trial court “did not abuse its discretion in granting the prosecutor’s motion to rescind the sentence agreement”, which was “a contractual bargain” between “the prosecutor and the defendant.” (slip op at 3). The Court of Appeals noted that the “sentencing agreement required [Josephus] to testify truthfully in the case against Willie, not just at Willie’s trial.” (slip op at 3). The Court of Appeals also pointed out that “[l]ogic compels that defendant provided false testimony at some point, either at the trial or the hearing”, thus breaching his agreement to provide “truthful testimony.” (slip op at 1)
Analysis: We, as criminal defense lawyers, need to exercise extreme caution in advising clients about whether to enter into sentence or plea agreements in exchange for testimony. Once a client has agreed to provide testimony against another person, there is really no room for cold feet, especially after they have testified. Clients need to fully understand the risks, both personal and legal, of offering inculpatory testimony against other people before they accept a deal that requires it.
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