MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Supreme Court dismissed a plea in the case of a woman charged in a crash that killed a couple in North Troy in 2012 because she was never asked in court if she admitted to the facts of the charges.
Alexis Gabree pleaded guilty in 2014 to two charges of grossly negligent operation with death resulting in the crash that killed Edmund and Margaret Moran. She was sentenced to six to 15 years in prison as part of the plea deal.
According to court record, Gabree had “11 separate and psychoactive or other substances” in her system and was driving on the wrong side of the road and speeding at the time of the crash, the Rutland Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2xduruG ).
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gabree was never asked in court if she admitted to the facts of the charges at the change-of-plea hearing.
“By making this inquiry, the court ensures that a defendant’s plea is truly voluntary and that a reviewing court has the ability to review the record,” the court said.
Last month, the Supreme Court had vacated a man’s 16 burglary convictions because he never admitted to any facts of the charges when questioned by the judge.
The court said the decision in the Anthony Bridger case had clarified that an “adequate factual basis” to show the plea is voluntary and “must consist of some recitation on the record of the facts underlying the charge and some admission by the defendant to those facts.”
Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy said that decision called into question all plea changes that didn’t have precise wording.
In the Gabree case, Justice Harold Eaton reiterated that he believed the earlier Bridger decision was wrongly decided but he acknowledged that a majority of the court saw grounds for reversing the lower court’s ruling in the Gabree case.
“I therefore concur in the judgment and will do so in similar cases unless a majority forms to depart from Bridger, as I hope that it will,” he wrote.
Gabree’s case will be remanded to a lower court, the Supreme Court said.
Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/