United States Supreme Court Holds Habeas Defendant Is Not Entitled to Specific Enforcement of a Plea Agreement

Today, the United States Supreme Court decided the first case of this term, and its a criminal case based on a federal habeas corpus petition. The Defendant plead guilty in California to an offense that had a set maximum. After the plea, the State discovered that he actually fell under a three strikes statute with a larger maximum. The trial court allowed the State’s motion to amend the complaint and allowed the Defendant to withdraw his plea.
On federal habeas, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the Defendant’s position that the U.S. Supreme Court case of Santobello v. NY meant that the Defendant was entitled to specific performance of the original plea agreement.
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed in a per curiam opinion, stating after a review of Santobello and other authorities, that allowing the Defendant to instead withdraw his plea is not contrary to “clearly established federal law”. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision is Kernan v. Cuero


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