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Sanchez v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 14, 2017

ROMAN G. SANCHEZ, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph B. Bluemel, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Joshua J. Merseal, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          FOX, Justice.

         [¶1] Roman G. Sanchez filed a post-sentence motion to withdraw his no contest plea. The district court denied his motion and he appeals. This Court concludes that the district court did not have jurisdiction to consider the motion and that this Court likewise lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] The dispositive issue is whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to consider Mr. Sanchez's Motion to Withdraw Guilty/No Contest Plea.

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mr. Sanchez was charged with second-degree murder in 2008. He entered into a plea agreement and changed his plea of not guilty to no contest. At the change of plea hearing, before accepting a plea from Mr. Sanchez, the district court gave the necessary advisements, and Mr. Sanchez acknowledged that he understood his constitutional rights, the assessments he would have to pay, the collateral consequences of a conviction, and that the minimum sentence for second-degree murder was 20 years of incarceration and the maximum was life. The district court asked both the State and defense counsel if there was a plea agreement, and for reasons now unknown, both attorneys answered no. Mr. Sanchez then entered his plea of no contest, which the district court accepted.

         [¶4] Prior to sentencing, Mr. Sanchez filed a motion to withdraw his plea of no contest on the grounds that he felt "pressured into accepting the offer and was unaware of the consequences the plea would have." At a hearing on the motion, the district court discussed the previous change of plea hearing with Mr. Sanchez, reaffirming that Mr. Sanchez understood the consequences of entering the plea and that he did so voluntarily. Mr. Sanchez testified that he felt that had he not entered a plea, the State could possibly bring first-degree murder and kidnapping charges against him, as well as the second-degree murder charge. The district court explained to Mr. Sanchez that those additional charges could be appropriate under the circumstances. The prosecutor then clarified that "if there was a sentencing on the second degree murder charge, the State would not file any other charges against Mr. Sanchez dealing with this event at all." Mr. Sanchez subsequently withdrew his motion to withdraw his no contest plea.

         [¶5] At the sentencing hearing on June 20, 2008, the district court imposed a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. Mr. Sanchez did not appeal from his conviction. Eleven months later, Mr. Sanchez filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Judgment and Sentence Reduction, requesting that the district court modify his sentence from life with the possibility of parole to a term of no less than 20 years and no more than 25 years. Mr. Sanchez contended that it was "the current policy of the State not to reduce or commute a life sentence at all, " and without a bottom number, he would never become parole eligible as intended by his plea agreement. The district court found it lacked jurisdiction to consider the motion and denied it. Mr. Sanchez did not appeal.

         [¶6] On December 10, 2014, the State and counsel for Mr. Sanchez filed a joint motion to correct an illegal sentence, pursuant to W.R.Cr.P. 11(e) and 35(a), agreeing that Mr. Sanchez had not been sentenced in accordance with the terms of his plea agreement.[1]The parties stipulated that Mr. Sanchez had accepted a plea agreement where "he would plead to the charge of Murder in the 2nd Degree, contrary to W.S. §6-2-104, and the State of Wyoming would not file charges for kidnapping, felony murder or 1st degree murder, "[2]and explained that at the time of the plea agreement, all parties had the understanding that "the Parole Board would be able to consider the case for Parole at any time consistent with its rules." The parties later discovered that because Mr. Sanchez "was sentenced without a 'bottom number' or minimum term, he would never go in front of the Parole Board for consideration of parole after service of a certain number of years." The district court amended Mr. Sanchez's sentence to "no less than Forty-Five (45) years to Life Imprisonment With Possibility of Parole."

         [¶7] Mr. Sanchez did not appeal, but a year later, apparently dissatisfied with his stipulated sentence amendment, filed a Motion for Sentence Reduction, Motion to Vacate Illegal Sentence and Set for Resentencing and Motion to Withdraw Guilty/No Contest Plea, requesting that the district court either: "1) reduce his sentence for second degree murder from forty-five (45) years to life to twenty (20) years to twenty-five (25) years; 2) set aside the current sentence and set this case for resentencing; and/or 3) allow Mr. Sanchez to withdraw his guilty plea." The district court denied Mr. Sanchez's motion, ...


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