In a recent decision by the Third District Court of Appeals, former West Mansfield resident Zachery Lee Edwards, 25, saw his appeal firmly denied.
The defendant had originally been charged with raping a child under the age of 13, a charge to which he initially agreed to plead guilty to two counts, with the understanding that other counts would be dismissed, provided the victim’s consent.
However, during the plea hearing, Edwards abruptly changed his mind and opted for a trial instead. The court, in response, confirmed a trial date, with the assistant prosecutor assigned to the case declaring no further plea negotiations. It seemed the case was destined for trial.
But the twists did not end there. Edwards subsequently requested more time to confer with his lawyer. In a surprising turn of events, the assistant prosecutor, who was preparing to leave the courtroom, offered an additional five minutes.
In the end, the defendant ultimately agreed to plead guilty, and the trial court took extensive measures to ensure he comprehended the implications of his plea, including the potential penalties.
At the time of sentencing, however, Edwards attempted to renege on his plea agreement and withdraw his guilty plea.
After a hearing, the court rejected his request, and he was subsequently sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
The defendant, in his appeal, contended that the court had abused its discretion by denying his motion and that he was actually innocent.
However, crucially, Edwards had admitted his guilt to the pre-sentence investigator, confessing to having sexual intercourse with the child when she was under the age of 13.
Recently, the Third District Court of Appeals, in an unanimous decision, rejected Edwards’ arguments, concluding that he did not provide the trial court with a reasonable and legitimate basis to withdraw his guilty plea. Consequently, his rape convictions were upheld.
Edwards’ parole eligibility has been set for 2041.