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Name: People v. Peterson
Case #: C068893
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/11/2012
Summary

The trial court did not err by setting aside plea agreement that required defendant to be truthful about her involvement in a murder when evidence showed that she made material false statements that created the inference that she was not an active participant in the crime. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pleaded guilty to second degree murder and agreed to testify against her codefendant, Varner. The plea agreement required defendant to testify fully and truthfully at all stages of trial and at any interview. It was premised on a taped statement she provided, which she affirmed was true and complete. The agreement provided that a material misrepresentation in the statement would be grounds for revoking the agreement. Defendant testified at Varner’s trial and he was convicted of first degree murder with special circumstances and sentenced to death. The trial court granted the prosecution’s subsequent motion to vacate defendant’s plea, agreeing that she made materially false statements. Defendant entered into a less favorable plea agreement and appealed. Affirmed. There was substantial evidence that defendant materially misrepresented the true extent of her participation in the murder. The question of materiality was governed by the terms of the plea agreement. Under the agreement, defendant was obligated to testify truthfully not just about Varner’s involvement in the murder but also about her own role. DNA evidence linking defendant to gloves at the crime scene, in conjunction with her numerous lies throughout the case, created a reasonable inference that she was an active participant in the crime and not just curled up in a ball during the killing as she claimed in her statement. Further, it was not unfair to invalidate the plea agreement after the prosecution secured a death verdict against Varner. The prosecution was not fully aware of the defendant’s breach of the agreement prior to Varner’s trial and the agreement was not premised on a particular outcome in that case. The fact that the prosecution may have benefitted from defendant’s partial performance under the agreement did not bar it from moving to vacate the plea because her lies were material and a substantial breach of the agreement.