If at first you don't succeed....

Every law,yer has had a case (probably more than a few) where they know the Court flat out got it wrong. The law was clear, but they managed to blow it anyway. No matter how experienced and knowledgeable judges are they still make mistakes and miss things. Sometimes they correct them, but more often than not they don't. They simply move on to the next case.

I've seen court's fix mistakes but I can't remember a case like this one - Ex Parte Moussazadeh, where the court went back and reconsidered a a case they decided 8 years ago. The defendant had plead guilty pursuant to an agreement in which his capital murder charge would be reduced to murder and he would testify against his co-defendants. The defendant - and everyone else believed he would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years. That would have been correct had he entered a plea 11 days earlier. Unfortunately the law had changed when he did so, and he was subject to the newer regulations - which required that he serve 30 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Moussazadeh filed a writ in 2003 alleging his plea was involuntary. The court denied relief, employing some tortured logic. They basically held that the plea was involuntary only if the plea bargain was not followed; they found parole eligibility was not part of the plea agreement (which it couldn't be) and therefore the plea was voluntary. Never mind the fact that the defendant - and everyone else - didn't know what the law was, and believed he become eligible in 15 years.

Fast forward to 2011. The defendant files a successor writ, relying on the  holding in Padilla v. Kentucky. He also filed a suggestion for reconsideration, asking the court to reconsider it's previous decision. The court had no problem rejecting the Padilla claim, since it clearly did not fit within that holding. (Kudos to the lawyers for creatively using it to get the case back before the court) However they granted the suggestion for reconsideration, and ended up granting relief.

The court went back and recognized that if a defendant is mislead about parole "eligibility" his plea may be involuntary. It's a fairly complicated legal explanation, but the bottom line is that if it was important then your decision could not be voluntary.  Think of the decision to buy a car - you believe its new, and has 35 miles. You later learn it was dealer demo and they rolled back the  odometer. you wouldn't have bought it had you known that, so you are entitled to relief.

This is the second time in as many weeks that have had to acknowledge a positive from the Court of Criminal Appeals. They deserve credit for going back and fixing a bad decision. Let's keep it up.

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