CRIMINAL LAW

Stacie Ayn Murphy Corcoran
2011 graduate of Suffolk University,
practicing in Mass. and NH

No. 2018-0424

July 30, 2019

Vacated and Remanded

  • Issue: Did the trial court err in denying the defendant’s request to vacate his conviction.

In 1991, the defendant took a plea bargain. 27 years later, he filed a motion to vacate his conviction on the grounds he wasn’t advised his right to a jury trial. The trial court denied his motion to vacate on various grounds. The defendant requested an evidentiary hearing which the trial court denied and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the Court found that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The Court found it was a collateral attack on his conviction and that there are statutory limits on the circuit court’s jurisdiction. The Court discussed that a circuit court has jurisdiction to withdraw guilty pleas based on a defendant’s constitutional rights, using a writ of habeus corpus or coram nobis. State v. Beaulieu. Here, because the defendant’s motion was filed beyond the three-year statute of limitations, RSA 526:4, and because he was not in custody, a writ of habeus corpus or coram nobis would be the proper procedural vehicle to seek a review of the conviction. The Court found that unlike the supreme and superior courts, the circuit court absent statutory authority has no jurisdiction to consider the merit of his motion.

Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Susan P. McGinnis, senior assistant attorney general, on the brief) for the State. Gregory J. Ahlgren, of Manchester, on the brief for the defendant.