COA upholds denial of guilty plea withdraw in attempted murder case

Two attempted murder convictions entered in a Brown County court will stand after the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a trial court that the offender did not provide a “fair and just reason” to withdraw his guilty pleas.

In Joshua E. Asher v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2679, Joshua Asher pleaded guilty to two counts of Level 1 felony attempted murder in April 2018. But in June, Asher moved to withdraw his pleas, saying he did not believe “he had the specific intent necessary to be guilty of attempted murder.”

But noting that Asher admitted six times during his plea hearing to the facts charged, including the intent to kill two people he shot at, the Brown Circuit Court declined to allow him to withdraw his pleas. In appealing that denial, Asher argued the trial court abused its discretion because the state was not substantially prejudiced by its reliance on his plea.

But Judge Melissa May, writing for a unanimous Indiana Court of Appeals panel, said a lack of prejudice did not require the trial court to grant his change-of-plea motion. Instead, the court retained discretion to grant the motion “for any fair and just reason.”

The trial court did not find such a reason, and the appellate court upheld that ruling. Like the trial court, the Court of Appeals pointed to Asher’s repeated admissions to the charges, including the specific intent to kill, at the guilty plea hearing.

“At no point during the hearing did Asher mention not understanding the nature of the charges against him,” May wrote. “Thus, the record indicates Asher understood the nature of the charges against him before his guilty plea. Moreover, Asher’s counsel discussed the requisite intent for attempted murder with Asher before he pled guilty to both counts.”

“…The trial court was well within its discretion in determining that no fair and just reason supported withdrawal of Asher’s guilty pleas,” she wrote.

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