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Issaquah Law Group - Injury Litigation Attorneys

TRUST: Personal injuries are personal. Which is why the attorneys at ILG treat every client and every case differently. Because they are different, and extremely personal. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built on trust. Trust that you will be heard. Trust that you will be protected. Trust that every effort will be made to see justice done in your case. The singular goal of every ILG attorney is to earn and preserve that trust.

EXPERIENCE: ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals and we bring this experience to bear on behalf of our clients in personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents, bus versus pedestrian accidents, defective and dangerous products, medical malpractice, slip/trip and fall accidents, and catastrophic losses due to fire.

LOCATION: We are located on the Eastside in Issaquah, convenient to Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Renton, Sammamish and North Bend. However, we provide legal services in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County and throughout the entire state of Washington.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

Court of Appeals: Div. II – Defendant Did Have a Clue As To His Guilty Plea, Despite Claim of Incompetency

State v. DeClue

Thomas DeClue pled guilty to second degree manslaughter and first degree unlawful possession of a firearm. DeClue later moved to withdraw his guilty plea because he claimed he was on medication and thus was unable to knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive his constitutional rights. I guess you could say he didn’t have DeClue as to what he was doing! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Get a clue

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and several people testified as to DeClue’s competency at the time he plead guilty. A nurse from the jail testified that DeClue had taken several medications at different times including Vicodin, BuSpar, Skelaxin, and Seroquel. I guess incarceration wasn’t too painful.

DeClue testified that the medications made him feel like a zombie and he wasn’t able to process information. Others, including inmates at the jail, also testified that DeClue was drowsy and couldn’t concentrate. However, DeClue’s attorney when he entered the plea testified that DeClue was sharp, astute, paid attention, and had no problems communicating. The judge also reviewed a videotape of the plea. The judge held that entry of the plea did not violate DeClue’s constitutional rights. DeClue appealed.

DeClue contended that since he claimed he was not competent to enter the plea, the statute required that a competency hearing was required not an evidentiary hearing. “If a defendant supports his motion to withdraw a guilty plea with substantial evidence of incompetency, the trial court must either grant the motion or hold a formal competency hearing under RCW 10.77. 060.” The important part of this rule is that the claim must be supported by “substantial evidence of incompetency.” If substantial evidence is lacking, then the motion is denied and no competency hearing is required.

DeClue’s claim that the judge made an error by having an evidentiary hearing rather than a competency hearing failed. The evidentiary hearing was held for the purpose of exploring DeClue’s claim that he was not competent. That exploration ended in a finding that there was no substantial evidence of incompetency and thus no competency hearing was necessary.

DeClue also challenged the trial court’s finding that he was competent. However, given the nurse’s testimony that DeClue didn’t appear intoxicated, DeClue’s attorney’s testimony, and the judge’s own recollection (with assistance from video) of the plea, the Court of Appeals could not find that the judge abused her discretion. Affirmed! Get a clue.

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