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Juarez v. Warren

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 5, 2015

APRIL JUAREZ, Petitioner,
v.
MILLICENT WARREN, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS [1] AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

LAURIE J. MICHELSON, District Judge.

On March 5, 2010, Petitioner April Juarez, apparently under the influence of alcohol, made four attempts to run over four individuals with her car. ( See Dkt. 1, Br. in Supp. of Pet. for Habeas ("Pet.") at 11; Dkt. 6, Resp. to Pet. for Habeas ("Resp.") at 1.) She ended up hitting a fifth individual, killing her. (Pet. at 11; Resp. at 1.) Juarez was charged with open murder and four counts of assault with intent to murder. (Pet. at 11.)

On May 26, 2010, the State offered to drop these charges in exchange for Juarez's plea of no contest to second degree murder and a single count of intent to murder listing all four of the individuals she tried to run over. (Pet. Exs. at Pg ID 53.) In open court and under oath, Juarez accepted the deal. She testified that she was 23 and had a year of college. (Pet. Exs. at 108.) The judge explained that Juarez might face life imprisonment if she pled, and then asked, "Do you understand the nature of the two charges and the maximum penalty of both of them?" ( Id. ) Juarez responded, "Yes." (Pet. Exs. at Pg ID 109.) The judge further explained that if Juarez pled, she would be giving up a number of trial related rights, including that the prosecutor would have to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. (Pet. Exs. at Pg ID 110.) The judge asked, "Do you have any question about the nature of the charge, the rights that you have, the charges against you, the maximum penalty for the two charges, or anything else related to this case?" (Pet. Exs. Pg ID 6.) Juarez responded, "No." So advised, Juarez pled no contest to the charges of second degree murder and intent to murder. (Pet. Exs. at Pg ID 54.)

Juarez changed her mind-twice. She filed a motion to withdraw her plea, but at the evidentiary hearing on that motion, again pled no contest. The state trial court engaged in a similar colloquy, but this time specifically probed for the presence of threats or coercion:

THE COURT: Is anyone threatening you today?
THE DEFENDANT: No.
THE COURT: Do you understand the various maximum penalty, the rights that you have, the charges against you, and everything else related to this case?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Is it your desire for the Court to continue to accept your plea of no contest?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Are you doing this voluntarily?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Is anyone threatening or forcing ...

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