The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/26/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. RICHARD W. McKENZIE
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PERRY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 6/11/98
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. In this case, we consider whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to accept a proffered guilty plea in a capital case where the prosecutor agreed to the plea and declined to pursue the death penalty in exchange for the defendant's cooperation. We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion. Thus, we reverse and remand this cause of action for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
¶2. In 1995 in Perry County, Mississippi, Kenneth Moody (Moody) was indicted for two counts of capital murder and one count of simple murder. On June 22, 1995, Moody entered into a written, signed agreement with the State entitled "Memorandum of Understanding" (the agreement). Pursuant to the agreement, Moody would plead guilty to the murder charges and would cooperate fully by making complete disclosures to the State regarding his participation in and knowledge of the charged offenses. Moody further agreed to provide testimony against his co-defendants. In exchange for Moody's pleas and cooperation, the State agreed to recommend that he be sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole. The State further agreed not to seek the death penalty.
¶3. The agreement also required that Moody provide truthful testimony before the grand jury if necessary, truthful testimony at trial if necessary, and take a polygraph examination regarding all matters disclosed to law enforcement agents, including information about the charged offenses. Also, the agreement required that Moody truthfully and completely reveal to the State all information and knowledge he possessed concerning a separate, unsolved murder, as well as any other crimes.
¶4. Pursuant to the agreement, Moody provided the State with the information. He also satisfied polygraph examinations concerning his statements about all of the murders in accordance with the agreement. However, at a subsequent plea hearing, the trial court refused to accept Moody's guilty pleas, stating the following:
¶5. Following this denial, Moody again moved to enforce the agreement. The circuit court promptly denied his motion, but certified the matter for interlocutory appeal to this Court. With this Court's ...