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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. RONALD BEASLEY (12/10/69)

COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK 1969.NY.43853 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 255 N.E.2d 239; 25 N.Y.2d 483 decided: December 10, 1969. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.RONALD BEASLEY, APPELLANT People v. Beasley, 31 A.D.2d 851, reversed. Counsel Morris Zuckman for appellant. Arnold W. Proskin, District Attorney (Michael A. Feit of counsel), for respondent. Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Bergan, Breitel and Gibson concur with Judge Jasen; Judge Scileppi dissents and votes to affirm on the ground that the record indicates that the defendant, who was represented by counsel, had a full and complete understanding of the consequences of pleading guilty, thereby obviating the necessity for a hearing. Author: Jasen


People v. Beasley, Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Bergan, Breitel and Gibson concur with Judge Jasen; Judge Scileppi dissents and votes to affirm on the ground that the record indicates that the defendant, who was represented by counsel, had a full and complete understanding of the consequences of pleading guilty, thereby obviating the necessity for a hearing.

Author: Jasen

 In 1965, the defendant, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree in satisfaction of an indictment charging him with (felony) murder in the first degree. Following his plea, he was sentenced to a term of from 10 to 20 years in prison.

Defendant brought this petition for a writ of error coram nobis alleging that it was error for the court to accept a plea of guilty after being notified that there was "some misunderstanding" with respect to the plea. Moreover, he states that certain statements made during sentencing imposed a duty on the trial court to make further inquiries as to the voluntariness of the plea. The writ was denied without a hearing and the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed.

Specifically, defendant argues that at plea-taking the trial court was advised of defense counsel's uncertainty as to the defendant's understanding of the proceedings before the court. Counsel there stated that "the defendant has had the plea explained to him and after some misunderstanding at first I think he sees now or understands what the Law is, insofar as this plea is concerned." (Emphasis added.)

In reply to this statement, the following colloquy took place:

"The Court: Well, now, the Court is going to question the defendant himself so that we can be sure that there are no misunderstandings. Lavigne, here, assigned by this Court, and you have talked this case over with him, is that correct?

"The Defendant: Yes, sir.

"The Court: Now, do you understand that if you plead guilty to this indictment as reduced to manslaughter in the First Degree you can be sentenced without any further procedure in this Court, there will be no trial, the Court is going to proceed to sentence here, do you understand that?

"The Defendant: Yes.

"The Court: Do you also understand that you are entitled to a trial and if you want to stand trial here it is your prerogative, and if you desire, after conferring and receiving the advice of counsel, if you desire to plead, that is also your prerogative. But if you do plead, you will be sentenced. Now, that is clear to you, is that correct?

"The Defendant: Yes.

"The Court: I understand your mother has been present here this morning and you have conferred with her as well, is that correct?

"The Defendant: Yes.

"The Court: All right, under all of these circumstances, the motion of the District Attorney is granted, the indictment here is reduced to the felony of manslaughter in the First ...


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