I am not a psychologist – and I don’t play one on this blog, but the Idaho Court of Appeals has decided that criminal defense lawyers need to pay attention to their clients’ mental states at the time they enter a plea of guilty. In Ridgley vs State of Idaho, decided August 6, Judge Lansing held that the appellant’s post trial challenge to his plea of guilty to Lewd Conduct with a minor under sixteen raised a question of fact as to his emotional state and his lawyers competence. The district court had dismissed the petition for post-conviction relief, in which Ridgley claimed his lawyer did not pay enough attention to his emotional state when he entered the plea. Every client who is charged with a crime is depressed to some degree, but this was different. The conduct he pled guilty to occurred two days after Ridgley’s wife died, and he was a suspect at the time. He entered the plea just sixteen days after her death. His lawyer met with Ridgley for less than an hour before he pled guilty, "did not provide Ridgley a copy of the police report, did not contact potential witnesses, did not watch or listen to tapes of interviews of the victim, and failed to advise Ridgley of potential defenses." So that doesn’t sound like great defense work, and in itself, might have been enough to send the case back to the district court. Combined with the affidavits and evidence offered the district court to prove that Ridgley’s mental state was equally suspect, the decision is not entirely surprising.
So if you are facing serious felony charges like Ridgley was – spend time with the lawyer who is representing you. Don’t shortcut the process. Tell that lawyer everything so you get the benefit of his or her experience.