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08SC884

08SC884

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Published by Circuit Media

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Published by: Circuit Media on Apr 26, 2010
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04/26/2010

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 Opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court are available to thepublic and can be accessed through the Court’s homepage athttp://www.courts.state.co.usand are posted on the ColoradoBar Association homepage atwww.cobar.org.ADVANCE SHEET HEADNOTEApril 26, 2010
 No.08SC884, Crumb v. People – Criminal Procedure – JudicialConduct – Judicial Participation in Plea Negotiations
The Colorado Supreme Court holds that the trial courtabused its discretion by denying the defendant’s motion towithdraw his guilty pleas. A defendant may withdraw a guiltyplea by showing a fair and just reason for doing so. UnderColorado law, a trial judge shall not participate in pleanegotiations. In this case, the trial judge gave the defendantadvice by saying “let me talk to you as a human being,” made atacit offer of leniency if the defendant accepted a pleaagreement, and stated that he was “not going to be a happyjudge” if the defendant did not agree to a plea deal. By makingthese comments, the trial judge participated in pleanegotiations and stepped out of his role as a neutral andimpartial arbiter of justice. Accordingly, the defendantdemonstrated a fair and just reason for withdrawing his guiltypleas, and the trial court abused its discretion by denying themotion to withdraw the guilty pleas.
 
 SUPREME COURT, STATE OF COLORADO101 West Colfax Avenue, Suite 800Denver, Colorado 80202Certiorari to the Colorado Court of AppealsCourt of Appeals Case No. 06CA814Case No. 08SC884
Petitioner:
James M. Crumb, Jr.,v.
Respondent:
The People of the State of Colorado.JUDGMENT REVERSEDEN BANCApril 26, 2010The Noble Law Firm, LLCAntony M. NobleLakewood, ColoradoAttorneys for PetitionerJohn W. Suthers, Attorney GeneralDeborah Isenberg Pratt, Assistant Attorney GeneralAppellate Division, Criminal Justice SectionDenver, ColoradoAttorneys for RespondentJUSTICE BENDER delivered the Opinion of the Court.
 
I. Introduction
In this appeal, we review the court of appeals’ decision inPeople v. Crumb, 203 P.3d 587 (Colo. App. 2008), which held thatthe defendant was not entitled to withdraw his guilty pleasbased on the trial judge’s participation in plea discussions.We reverse. We hold that the trial court abused its discretionwhen it failed to permit the defendant to withdraw his guiltypleas.In this case, the trial judge stepped out of his role as afair and impartial arbiter by making participatory comments.These comments appear to have influenced the defendant’sdecision to reconsider his earlier rejection of the offered pleaand his ultimate decision to plead guilty. The judge gave thedefendant advice, saying “let me talk to you as a human being,”and then pressured the defendant to accept a plea agreement bycomparing the maximum sentence the defendant faced if convictedwith a potentially more lenient sentence if the defendantaccepted a plea agreement. The judge departed further from hisjudicial role by telling the defendant that he was “not going tobe a happy judge” if no plea deal were reached. Given theseparticipatory comments, we hold that the trial court abused itsdiscretion by denying the defendant’s motion to withdraw hisguilty pleas. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’2

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