Be Careful What You Wish For!

prison cell2.jpg“Answered prayers cause more tears than those that go unanswered” Saint Teresa of Avila
Have you seen the new Chevy ads? Buy a Chevy, and if you don’t “love it”, you can return the car within 60 days. Some defendants here in Orlando assume that our court system has that same high level of customer service. But as you know–it doesn’t. So, when a plea is entered, there’s rarely an opportunity to go back and withdraw the plea just because the negotiated plea is not what was expected. You’d be surprised how many folks enter a plea involving prison time–only to then spend much of their prison time researching ways to undo the agreed upon plea. So, let’s say you’re one of the lucky prisoners who actually convinces a judge to undo an agreed upon prison sentence–now what?

This has actually happened in the recent case of Ciambrone v. State, Case No. 2D11-5349 (Fla. 2nd DCA August 3, 2012). Mrs. Ciambrone negotiated a plea deal on her child abuse case which resulted in death (felony murder, punishable by life, technically). The plea deal saved Mrs. Ciambrone from a life time in prison, as she received a 55 year sentence instead. Because this case dates back to 1993, and with gain time, she had a really good shot at getting out of prison later in life (young gal at the time). Later down the road, Mrs. Ciambrone requested that she be allowed to withdraw her plea because her attorney gave her bad advice regarding gain time rules. The Second District Court of Appeals granted her motion to withdraw the plea in 2006. What this means is, she is now back to square one, ready to actually have a jury trial if she likes.

In 2007, that’s exactly what she did. But the jury found her guilty of first degree felony murder, and the trial court sentenced her to life without the possibility of parole. (uh, can I have that plea back?…) Once again, Mrs. Ciambrone appealed, this time alleging various technical issues involving the sentencing structures of a 1993 child abuse, versus the laws in 1995 (the 1993 laws permitted parole after 25 years, the 1995 laws did not, but none of this is relevant to the issue at hand). Her final appeal was denied today.

This case may prove the old saying–be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. In this case, Mrs. Ciambrone could have been released from prison under her plea to second degree murder. But after she withdrew the plea, she received a much worse sentence. The appeals court summed it up nicely with their observation that “prisoners who fantasize about a future court proceeding in which their motion to withdraw from their negotiated plea results in their freedom should consider the fact that their plea was negotiated with the assistance of a trained attorney. They should reflect on Mrs. Ciambrone, whose motion to withdraw a plea to a lesser offense now makes it very likely that she will die in custody.” Id. Couldn’t have said it better myself. But for every Mrs. Ciambrone, there’s 10 other defendants that got better deals later. So, you can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?