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Burke v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

December 4, 2017

Keith Burke
v.
State of Rhode Island.

         Providence County PM 07-984 Superior Court Robert D. Krause Associate Justice.

          For Applicant: Camille A. McKenna Office of the Public Defender

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General

          Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          William P. Robinson III Associate Justice.

         The applicant, Keith Burke, appeals[1] from the denial of his application for postconviction relief at the conclusion of a March 5, 2015 hearing in Providence County Superior Court. He contends on appeal that the hearing justice erred in denying his application for postconviction relief because "on October 12, 1994, [he] negotiated, bargained for, and reached an unambiguous agreement with the state, in which it would dismiss the murder case [pending against him] in exchange for his guilty plea in two other felony cases and the state breached [that] agreement."

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On May 22, 1992, Mr. Burke was indicted for murder.[2] On November 23, 1993, he was charged by criminal information with breaking and entering (P2/93-3719A); and, on December 22, 1993, he was also charged by criminal information with larceny (P2/93-3967A). On October 12, 1994, while represented by counsel, Mr. Burke pled guilty to the charges of breaking and entering and of larceny; and he was sentenced to a ten-year suspended sentence and ten years probation on each charge, to be served concurrently. The murder charge was dismissed pursuant to Rule 48(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. Mr. Burke contends that his guilty pleas in the breaking and entering and larceny cases were in exchange for what he characterizes as the dismissal with prejudice of the pending murder charge.

         Thereafter, on September 3, 2004, Mr. Burke was indicted, in P1/04-2715A, for the same murder that had formed the basis of the indictment that had been dismissed in 1994. On June 22, 2005, Mr. Burke, through counsel, moved to dismiss the 2004 murder indictment, making the same argument that he makes before this Court-that the murder charge was dismissed with prejudice in 1994 in exchange for his guilty pleas on the other two charges. The state denied Mr. Burke's contention that the dismissal of the 1992 indictment was a dismissal with prejudice. The Superior Court justice presiding over the motion to dismiss held a full-blown hearing, at which hearing testimony from the prosecutor who handled the 1994 pleas and his supervisor was elicited. Thereafter, the Superior Court justice, in a written decision, made findings of fact and denied Mr. Burke's motion to dismiss; the Superior Court justice found that the 1994 dismissal of the murder charge was without prejudice. Mr. Burke took no further action with respect to that finding.[3]

         On February 23, 2007, while the 2004 murder indictment was still pending, Mr. Burke filed the instant application for postconviction relief, seeking leave to withdraw his guilty pleas to the breaking and entering and larceny charges. He argued that the state "violated a contractual relationship" when it re-indicted him for the murder in 2004 after he "reli[ed]" on the state's intention to dismiss the 1992 murder indictment when he pled guilty to breaking and entering and larceny; he added that, at the time he pled guilty to breaking and entering and larceny, he thereby waived his constitutional rights, "including the right to proceed to trial." On October 1, 2008, while the instant application for postconviction relief remained pending, Mr. Burke pled guilty to second-degree murder in P1/04-2715A-the 2004 murder case. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Burke agreed to withdraw "all pending matters before the Superior and Supreme Courts." Significantly, the docket reflects the fact that Mr. Burke then filed a motion to dismiss the instant application. The docket does not reflect that an order granting the dismissal was entered.

         There was no further action in this case for an extended period; then, on April 17, 2014, Mr. Burke filed a bevy of motions. Those motions included: (1) a motion to withdraw the just-mentioned motion to dismiss; (2) a motion requesting an evidentiary hearing; and (3) a motion for "enforcement and specific performance of plea agreement and request for dismissal" of the 2004 murder indictment. A hearing was held on March 5, 2015 before another justice of the Superior Court, at the conclusion of which the hearing justice denied Mr. Burke's application for postconviction relief; the hearing justice based his decision on the fact that Mr. Burke had agreed, as part of his guilty plea to second-degree murder, to withdraw all pending applications for postconviction relief, including the instant application. Mr. Burke thereafter appealed to this Court.

         II

         Standard ...


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