Extrajudicial Confession In Arizona
The Arizona Supreme Court has noted that the corpus delicti principle applies to extrajudicial statements. State v. Atwood, 171 Ariz. 576, 597, 832 P.2d 593, 614 (1992) ("In Arizona, the prosecution must establish a reasonable inference of the corpus delicti before it may introduce defendant's extrajudicial confession or admission as additional evidence of the crime.").
In Kercheval v. United States, 274 U.S. 220, 225, 47 S. Ct. 582, 584, 71 L. Ed. 1009 (1927), the United States Supreme Court recognized the significant distinction between statements made extrajudicially and those made in court within the context of a guilty plea.
The Court stated:
"A plea of guilty differs in purpose and effect from a mere admission or an extrajudicial confession; it is itself a conviction. Like a verdict of a jury it is conclusive. More is not required; the court has nothing to do but give judgment and sentence." Id. at 223, 47 S. Ct. at 583.
Based on principles of fundamental fairness, however, the Court held that evidence of the defendant's prior guilty plea could not be admitted against him at a later trial held after the plea had been vacated and he had changed his plea to not guilty. Id. at 225, 47 S. Ct. at 584.
In Lam v. Peyton, 268 F. Supp. 253, 254 (W. D. Va. 1967), the court relied on that language in Kercheval in rejecting the defendant's claim that the state had been required to provide independent evidence of the corpus delicti through a witness in a guilty plea proceeding.
The court concluded that "corpus delicti must be established in order to admit an extra-judicial confession" and refused to apply that rule to "a formal plea of guilty." Id.;
Waley v. United States, 233 F.2d 804, 806 (9th Cir. 1956) (corpus delicti rule inapplicable to plea of guilty made at trial);
State v. Lee, 335 N.C. 244, 439 S.E.2d 547, 568 (N.C. 1994) (finding corpus delicti rule inapplicable at jury trial for sentencing of defendant who had pled guilty to first-degree murder);
Mullen, supra, at 408 (recognizing "infrajudicial statements" among exceptions to corpus delicti rule;
"defendant may plead guilty without independent proof of a crime, and a defendant's in-court confession requires no corroboration");
But see Commonwealth v. Fears, 575 Pa. 281, 836 A.2d 52, 67 (Pa. 2003) (applying corpus delicti principle in determining validity of guilty plea).