The Court of Appeals of Virginia welcomes us back from summer vacation with a discussion of questions presented that will keep appellate specialists up at night in Carroll v. Commonwealth.
In 2007, Carroll was charged with raping his stepdaughter twenty-four years earlier. Carroll had initially been charged in 1983, but the case was nolle prossed–only to be reopened later, as the result of a separate rape allegation involving Carroll’s sister. In 1984, the government destroyed specimens and other evidence obtained from a physical examination of the victim.
Despite the Commonwealth’s evidentiary difficulties, Carroll entered an Alford plea. This allowed him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that the Commonwealth had enough evidence to convict him.
Carroll entered into a plea agreement with the Commonwealth, under which he did not admit that he committed the rape and, to the contrary, expressly claimed his innocence. The plea agreement provided that Carroll would satisfy the conditions of his probation, which included that he maintain good behavior, have no contact with the victim, and pay court costs. If he did so, his sentence would be continued while he was on probation, and upon satisfying probation, the government would ask the court to vacate his conviction and accept instead a guilty plea of assault and battery. The agreement included an integration clause: “I understand that the judge will not enforce any agreement not written down here.” The plea agreement made no mention of sex-offender treatment.
The trial court accepted Carroll’s plea and continued the case for 5 years. One of the conditions of the trial court’s order was that Carroll would comply with all rules and requirements set by his probation officer.
Carroll’s probation officer mandated that he attend sex-offender treatment, which required him to accept responsibility for his actions. Carroll refused, and was discharged from the program. The trial court issued a bench warrant. At the resulting hearing, Carroll argued that he had not violated his probation because the trial court had accepted his Alford plea. The trial court disagreed. It found that Carroll had violated his probation and convicted him of rape. It sentenced him to 5 years in prison, all suspended.
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