posted 2019 | State v. R.S. (Pasco County)
This is a great example of how an experienced and persistent post-conviction lawyer can change the game. Mr. Forman was hired by his client to see if he could remove the 10 years of probation that he was given in addition to his prison sentence. The client was charged with a sex offense and was represented by a public defender.
The client explained the situation to Mr. Forman. The client explained that he wanted to accept a plea offer that he thought was previously given, but when he went to court, his attorney was not present. Instead, a different public defender was there. When the client wanted to accept the plea offer in court, the state only offered a plea that included an additional 3 years of prison.
The public defender told the client that he should just wait and speak to his assigned lawyer at the next court date, which the client agreed to do. The prosecutor informed the judge that the new plea offer would remain open. Of course, when he showed up at the next court date, the prosecutor now added an additional 10 years of probation to the last offer.
The client correctly assessed the situation and still accepted the plea offer because he was fearful he was going to get a life sentence if he went to trial on his unwinnable case. He informed Mr. Forman that he took plea knowing that he would simply try to remove the probation later.
After hearing what happened, Mr. Forman immediately formulated a strategy to present in the motion for post-conviction relief. Four claims were presented and focused on the fact that the lawyer who appeared in court never informed the client that the prosecutor could increase the plea offer once the prosecutor agreed to keep it open. Mr. Forman argued that the client would have accepted the plea offer had he been given this simple advice. Case law supported this argument.
In addition to knowing the law, a good attorney also never quits fighting for his client. This is best illustrated in this case, where the trial court initially entered an order denying some of the claims and while also requiring the state to respond. Because he was well-versed in the law regarding this type of claim, Mr. Forman recognized that the judge relied on incorrect case law and logic when she denied the claims.
As a result, Mr. Forman filed a motion asking the judge to change her mind due to this reason. Naturally, trial judges rarely change their mind after making a ruling. However, the judge agreed with Mr. Forman and re-opened those claims. After several weeks, Mr. Forman was able to convince the prosecutor drop 8 of the 10 years of probation that was imposed. Naturally, the client was extremely happy with reduction and gladly agreed to be re-sentenced! Persistence and knowledge of the law paved the way for this outcome.