Kingfish broke the story Tuesday on Karen Irby’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Here is Kingfish’s report and the motion. Here is today’s Clarion-Ledger article on the story.

The motion seems to be barking up the right tree as far as the applicable law. But it’s going to be a big hill to climb. Here is the applicable law:

1. Voluntariness

 

U.R.C.C. 8.04(A)(5) provides that "it is within the discretion of the court to permit or deny a motion for the withdrawal of a guilty plea." If the defendant is advised regarding the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea, it is considered "voluntary and intelligent." Alexander v. State, 605 So. 2d 1170, 1172 (Miss.1992). Furthermore, "Solemn declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of verity." Baker v. State, 358 So. 2d 401, 403 (Miss.1978) In Roland v. State, 666 So. 2d 747, 750 (Miss.1995), this Court held that when the trial court questions the defendant and explains his rights and the effects and consequences of the plea on the record, the plea is rendered voluntary despite advice given to the defendant by his attorney. Id. See Smith v. State, 636 So. 2d 1220, 1225 (Miss.1994).

 

2. Ineffective assistance of counsel.

 

Another ground for reversal of a guilty plea is ineffective assistance of counsel. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are judged by the standard in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674 (1984).The two-part test set out in Strickland is whether counsel’s performance was deficient and, if so, whether the deficiency prejudiced the defendant to the point that "our confidence in the correctness of the outcome is undermined." Neal v. State, 525 So. 2d 1279, 1281 (Miss.1987). This standard is also applicable to a guilty plea. Schmitt v. State, 560 So. 2d 148, 154 (Miss.1990). A strong but rebuttable presumption exists that "counsel’s conduct falls within a broad range of reasonable professional assistance." McQuarter v. State, 574 So. 2d 685, 687 (Miss.1990). To overcome this presumption, the defendant must show that "but for" the deficiency a different result would have occurred. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694, 104 S. Ct. 2052. 

So there is a strong presumption under the law that the plea was voluntary and that there was an effective assistance of counsel.

But the motion raises some interesting facts. Karen Irby estimates that Stuart Irby paid attorney Joe Holloman at least $500,000 in the case. The motion attaches documents that show that Holloman was was paid at least $95,000 on the case and projected that it would cost $632,224 to defend the case through trial. 

There is nothing illegal or improper about one person paying another’s legal bills. In fact, it is very common. The key is that the attorney represents the defendant–not the person paying the bills. Holloman claims that he maintained his loyalty to Karen Irby and there is no evidence at this point that proves otherwise. There are only allegations by a convicted felon.

Karen Irby already sued Stuart Irby. She will probably sue Joe Holloman too.   

I still doubt that Karen Irby will be successful in getting her sentence reduced, but she has made it interesting. There could be a book or movie in this before it is over.