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State v. Francis

Supreme Court of Utah

August 15, 2017

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Samuel Aaron Francis, Appellant.

         On Appeal of Interlocutory Order Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Royal I. Hansen No. 131908488

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., John J. Nielsen, Asst. Solic. Gen., and Clint T. Heiner, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Kelly Ann Booth, Salt Lake City, for appellant

          Justice Pearce authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Durham and Judge Toomey joined.

          Having been recused, Justice Himonas does not participate herein; Court of Appeals Judge Kate A. Toomey sat.

          OPINION

          Pearce, Justice

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 Samuel Aaron Francis and the State entered into a plea agreement the weekend before Francis's trial. The State rescinded its offer before Francis entered his plea because Francis's alleged victim objected to the agreement. Francis's counsel then represented to the district court that she was not ready for trial because she had ceased trial preparation once she believed the parties had reached a plea agreement. The district court continued trial. Francis later filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement. The district court denied Francis's motion. Francis petitioned for interlocutory appeal asking the court of appeals to remand with orders to enforce his agreement with the State. The court of appeals granted the petition, then certified the appeal to us. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 After Samuel Aaron Francis allegedly beat up his girlfriend, the State leveled a host of charges against him: three third degree felony counts of aggravated assault, a third degree felony count of obstruction of justice, and a misdemeanor count of interruption of a communication device.

         ¶3 The district court scheduled a jury trial to begin on Monday, June 15, 2015. On the Friday before trial, the State agreed that if Francis would plead to one of his four third degree felony charges, it would offer him a "402 reduction after successful completion of probation, 24 months supervised probation, [and] no agreement for recommendation of no jail at sentencing." Francis accepted the plea offer on Saturday and emailed a copy of the agreement to the State for review on Sunday.

         ¶4 The State returned the agreement with substantive edits the morning of trial.[1] An hour later-before the judge took the bench and before Francis entered his plea-the State rescinded its offer because the alleged victim disapproved of the agreement.

         ¶5 At Francis's request, the court granted a continuance and rescheduled the jury trial for August 2015. Francis then filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement, arguing that he had detrimentally relied on the State's offer. The court rejected the motion. Francis timely sought interlocutory review in the court of appeals. We now review this case on certification from the court of appeals.

          ¶6 Francis argues that he was prejudiced because, having relied on the recently rescinded plea offer, he was unprepared to go forward with trial. Next, he alleges that the withdrawn plea agreement caused him to forego "the investigation and assertion of claims regarding alleged Brady and Tiedemann violations." He also argues that he was prejudiced because one of his witnesses had expressed hesitancy to return ...


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