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State v. Anyanwu

June 22, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
RICHARD ANYANWU, APPELLANT.



Hennepin County District Court. File No. 03030669.

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A guilty plea is per se invalid when the district court abandons its role as an independent examiner and improperly injects itself into the plea negotiations by promising a particular sentence in advance.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge

Reversed and remanded

OPINION

Appellant Richard Anyanwu challenges his conviction based on a plea agreement that was negotiated with the court, arguing that the district court impermissibly became a direct participant in the plea negotiations. Because the district court erred by improperly injecting itself into the plea agreement negotiations and promising a particular sentence in advance, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

Appellant Richard Anyanwu allegedly shot H.I. while she was seated in her car, in her garage. The state charged Anyanwu with attempted first-degree murder, and first-and second-degree assault. The district court held a plea hearing, in which the state sought the statutory maximum sentence of 240 months. The presumptive guidelines sentence was 180 months. Defense counsel indicated that Anyanwu would plead guilty to all three counts "in a straight plea to the Court with the understanding that the Court would give him a sentence of 210 months in prison." The district court promised Anyanwu a 210-month sentence, noting "The Court is agreeing to, if [Anyanwu] pleads guilty, to give a sentence to the Commissioner of Corrections for 210 months." The prosecutor objected to any disposition other than 240 months in prison and noted, "the record should be clear that this is an agreement between the defense and the Court and that the State is not a party to it." Anyanwu did not object to the district court's promise of a 210-month sentence.

At sentencing, the district court imposed a 210-month sentence, an upward departure of 30 months from the presumptive guidelines sentence. The prosecutor again noted, "This was a straight plea to the Court with an agreed upon sentence of 210 months. . . [and] the State does object to a disposition of anything less than 240 months."

Anyanwu did not move to withdraw his guilty plea. Instead, Anyanwu filed this direct appeal.

ISSUES

I. Is a conviction erroneous when it is based on a plea agreement negotiated with the court?

II. Should the departure from the presumptive guidelines sentence be vacated because the state did not give timely notice of its intention to depart from the presumptive guidelines sentence and because the ...


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