Legal Question in Criminal Law in Michigan

Killabrew agreement

What is a killabrew agreement?

Asked on 3/07/02, 12:39 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Nancy Moore Nancy L. Moore, Esq.

Re: Killabrew agreement

The only Killabrew I know is a former athlete. Need more info!!

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Answered on 3/07/02, 10:14 pm

Neil O'Brien Eaton County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Re: Killabrew agreement

I won't reply with a bad joke, like the other reply. :-( And I'll try to actually ANSWER your question.

A "Killebrew" agreement comes from a criminal case called People v Killebrew. What arose from that decision was a process where a defendant can withdraw his/her guilty plea if the judge imposes a sentence that is harsher than one that the prosecutor had recommended before the plea; basically, the defendant was induced to plead based on the sentence recommendation.

Normally, when a defendant pleads guilty, he does so without any preview of what the sentence will be. But, if a defendant pleads based on a promise of a certain sentence, and doesn't get that sentence, then he is given a chance to withdraw his plea, or accept the sentence as handed out by the judge.

There are 2 plea-withdrawl situations supported by recent caselaw: Killebrew pleas and Cobbs pleas. In a Killebrew plea, the prosecutor and defendant (but not the judge) agree to a certain sentence limit ... if the judge exceeds it, then the defendant can say "no deal" and withdraw his plea. In a Cobbs plea, the judge has met with the prosecutor and defendant's attorney re: sentencing and the judge says "based on what I know about the facts and the defendant, I'm going to sentence him to no more than XYZ" ... and if the defendant pleads guilty based on that expectation and the judge (after a pre-sentence investigation) later sentences him to more than what the judge said he'd do in the Cobbs Hearing, he can withdraw his plea.

In a Cobbs situation, the prosecutor hasn't joined in on the sentence agreement. In a Killebrew situation, the judge hasn't. In either case, the defendant has pled guilty based on an expectation, and fairness/due process now allows him to step back if he didn't get the benefit of his expected bargain.

If the plea is being tendered based on a Killebrew or Cobbs situation, the defense MUST state so on the record. Otherwise, every defendant who doesn't like his sentence can say "hey, I want to withdraw my plea, too." Killebrew and Cobbs deals occur in only a small minority of criminal cases.

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Answered on 3/08/02, 8:59 am

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