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Unconstitutional Death Penalty Leads to Motion to Withdraw Plea

by TChris

Defendants who face the death penalty often have an incentive to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life imprisonment. Even the innocent might want to make that deal rather than risking death.

Deborah Green made that deal, but it turns out that she may not have benefitted from it. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's death penalty statute is unconstitutional. Since she could not have been put to death even if convicted in a trial, should she be entitled to withdraw her plea so she can have her day in court?

[A]ttorneys for the former Prairie Village doctor say she should be allowed to withdraw those pleas. "As a result of this decision, Ms. Green received no benefit from her bargain with the state, and allowing her plea to stand in light of this decision would result in a manifest injustice and violation of due process of law," attorneys Angela Keck and Jessica Travis asserted in a motion filed this week in Johnson County District Court.

Green is accused of setting a fire that destroyed her home and caused the death of her two children. She's also "challenging the validity of her pleas based on new scientific methods of arson investigation."

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  • A similar argument would seem to apply to the Lackawanna (?) defendants who pled guilty to terrorism charges rather than face the possibility of indefinite detention as "unlawful combatants." Since the Supremes ruled that even "unlawful combatants" can have their day in court, shouldn't these six be allowed to withdraw their pleas and go to trial?

    Interesting procedural questions. I know how to draft the pleadings, but don't know off the top of my head what chance the pleadings would have. Any criminal lawyers types want to weigh in?