EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sign Here: Court Of Appeals Of Iowa Finds Rule 410 Doesn't Cover Defendant's Falsely Signed Statement of Understanding

Like its federal counterpart, Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.410(4) indicates that

Except as otherwise provided in this rule or R.Cr.P. 9(5), evidence of the following is not, in any civil or criminal proceeding, admissible against the defendant who made the plea or was a participant in the plea discussions:

(4) any statement made in the course of plea discussions with an attorney for the prosecuting authority which do not result in a plea of guilty or which result in a plea of guilty later withdrawn.

Most courts require a defendant claiming that he made statements during plea discussions to prove two elements: (1) that he exhibited an actual subjective expectation to negotiate a plea at the time of the discussion; and (2) that this expectation was reasonable given the totality of the circumstances. And as the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Iowa in State v. Daniels, 2010 WL 1875707 (Iowa App. 2010), makes clear, if a defendant claims that a document commenced plea negotiations and yet he signed a false name on that document, he did not have an actual subjective expectation to negotiate a plea.

In Daniels

officer Chad Ruroden of the Des Moines Police Department observed two men getting into a vehicle that matched the description of a stolen vehicle. Officer Ruroden approached the men, and saw the man on the passenger side drop a white bag on the ground. The officer conducted a pat down search of the man on the driver's side, Jonathon Green, and discovered thirty-nine rocks of crack cocaine in his jacket pocket. The man on the passenger side stated his name was Tyrone Daniels. The officer discovered 34.10 grams of marijuana in twelve separate baggies in the white bag Daniels had dropped on the ground.

Green and Daniels stated Daniels was accompanying Green that day while Green went to purchase crack cocaine from a man they knew only as "Black." They also stated that on other occasions Green would accompany Daniels while Daniels purchased marijuana from a man known as "Kool-Aid." Daniels gave a signed statement....

Green and Daniels cooperated with police officers to conduct a controlled buy of crack cocaine from "Black"....They also conducted a controlled buy of marijuana from "Kool-Aid"....Daniels signed a Memorandum of Understanding, as Tyrone Daniels, stating he would fully cooperate with law enforcement officials....The agreement provided that if Daniels did not cooperate, the agreement would be null and void. The agreement also provided, "it is agreed and understood by the Defendant that in the event the Defendant breaches this agreement, his admission of criminal activity is and shall be admissible against him in any criminal case or investigation."

After the controlled buy, however, the police department lost contact with Daniels, prompting the police to file arrest warrants for "Tyrone Daniels." The police soon learned, though, that the person they had dealt with was actually "Anthony Daniels," with Tyrone being his brother. The police thereafter arrested Anthony, and he was later convicted of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

The trial court later denied Anthony's motion for a new trial, prompting him to appeal, claiming, inter alia, that the trial judge improperly allowed for the admission of the Memorandum of Understanding under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.410(4). The Court of Appeals of Iowa disagreed, finding that Anthony presented no evidence that he subjectively expected that he negotiated a plea when he signed the Memorandum of Understanding. I would add that even if Daniels thought that he was negotiating a plea, he was merely talking to police officers and could not have thought that he was negotiating a plea with an attorney for the prosecuting authority, rendering Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.410(4) inapplicable.

Moreover, the court found

that although the memorandum require[d] defendant to be "truthful, honest, and candid as to all matters within his knowledge as they relate to the pending investigations," defendant signed the document under the name Tyrone Daniels, which was not his real name. We determine that because Daniels was using a false name, he did not have an expectation that he was negotiating a legitimate plea agreement. Such an expectation would not be reasonable under the circumstances.



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