EvidenceProf Blog

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Withdrawal Symptoms: Court Of Appeals Of Missouri Finds Statements Related To Withdrawn Guilty Plea Inadmissible

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.02(d)(5) states that

Except as otherwise provided in this Rule 24.02(d)5, evidence of a plea of guilty, later withdrawn, or of an offer to plead guilty to the crime charged or of any other crime, or of statements made in connection with, and relevant to, any of the foregoing pleas or offers is not admissible in any civil or criminal proceeding against the person who made the plea or offer. However, evidence of a statement made in connection with, and relevant to, a plea of guilty, later withdrawn, or an offer to plead guilty to the crime charged or any other crime is admissible in a criminal proceeding for perjury or false statement if the statement was made by the defendant under oath, on the record, and in the presence of counsel.

Rule 24.02(d)(5) thus makes explicit what Federal Rule of Evidence 410(1) does not: that statements made in connection with a withdrawn guilty plea are inadmissible. As an example, let's look at the recent opinion of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, Division Two, in State v. Thieman, 353 S.W.3d 384 (Mo.App. S.D. 2011).

In Thieman, Robert Thieman was charged with assault in the first degree, armed criminal action, and unlawful use of a weapon. These charges stemmed from Thieman shooting a .22 rifle at the victim's vehicle.

Initially, [Thieman] pled guilty to the crimes charged and a sentencing assessment report ("SAR") was prepared by [the prosecutor] in conjunction with the preparation of that plea. [The prosecutor] interviewed [Thieman] at that time. Thereafter, [Thieman]'s plea agreement was rejected by the plea court and [Thieman] was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. He then entered a plea of not guilty and th[e] matter proceeded to trial.

At trial, the prosecutor was called to the witness stand and testified, inter alia, that while she was interviewing Thieman for the SAR, he told her that he consumed between six and twelve beers soon before discharging his .22 rifle.

Thieman was eventually convicted and filed a motion for a new trial, but that motion did not argue that the prosecutor's testimony was wrongfully admitted. After the trial court denied his motion, Thieman appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court committed plain error by refusing to award him a new trial despite the erroneous admission of the prosecutor's testimony based upon Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.02(d)(5).

The Court of Appeals agreed that the trial court committed error because "'Rule 24.02(d)(5) precludes [the] use at trial of statements made by a defendant during a plea if that plea was withdrawn, for the plea has thereby been rendered involuntary and inadmissible as evidence of guilt.'" (That said, the court found that the error was not "plain" because it was not "outcome determinative").

Obviously, this result makes sense given the language of Rule 24.02(d)(5), but it also would make sense under Federal Rule of Evidence 410(1). Even though this latter Rule only deems inadmissible evidence of a withdrawn guilty plea, courts have also found that it covers statements related to a withdrawn guilty plea, as I have previously noted.



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