Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Discusses Factors for Determining Whether a Plea was Voluntary and Intelligent

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Discusses Factors for Determining Whether a Plea was Voluntary and Intelligent

Jonathan Lawrence appealed Davidson County Criminal Court’s rejection of his petition for relief from his convictions on two counts of especially aggravated kidnaping, one count of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated robbery which resulted in a sentence of 25 years. Lawrence contends he did not plead guilty knowingly, intelligently or voluntarily. 

In 2008 Lawrence was indicted on the above-mentioned charges following one incident in June of that year where he and a friend robbed a man at gunpoint and then forced him into his apartment while they fled. Just a few days later Lawrence robbed another man, robbing him at gunpoint and then demanding he drive him to an ATM to withdraw money. His partner in crime stayed behind, forcing his way into the man’s apartment and repeatedly raping his girlfriend. In 2009 he pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to be served at 100 percent. 

The Court of Criminal Appeals said that for a plea to comply with the Constitution it must be both voluntary and intelligent. A defendant must be advised of the consequences of a guilty please and must understand those consequences. The court says that in answering this question it looks at the following factors: 1) the relative intelligence of the defendant; 2) the degree of familiarity with criminal proceedings; 3) whether he was represented by competent counsel; 4) extent of advice from counsel; and 5) the reasons for his decision to plead guilty.

The Court concluded that the lower court was correct in denying Lawrence’s petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was informed by the court of his right to a jury trial and of the consequences of a guilty plea. The court then asked if Lawrence understood and he said “Yes.” Lawrence had a credible attorney advise him of the plea arrangement before entering into it and Lawrence made the choice to accept on his own. Thus, his guilty plea was knowing, intelligent and voluntary. 

To read the full opinion, click here.


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