Pleading Guilty Because of Judges Comments

In Tyler v. Swenson, 427 F.2d 412 (8th Cir. 1970), the defendant alleged in a post-conviction motion that the trial judge had made statements to the defendant during plea discussions that coerced him to plead guilty. See Tyler, 427 F.2d at 412-414. The hearing on the motion was presided over by the same judge whose conduct was challenged in the motion. See 427 F.2d at 413. The judge took an active role at the hearing, offering testimony that directly contradicted that of the appellant's witnesses and gave the judge the appearance of being aligned with the prosecution. See 427 F.2d at 414. The Missouri state intermediate and supreme courts found that it was not erroneous for the judge to hear the post-conviction motion because the defendant failed to attempt to recuse the judge and the judge did not actually take the stand as a witness and, therefore, did not testify. See 427 F.2d at 414 (citing State v. Tyler, 440 S.W.2d 470 (Mo. 1969). The Eighth Circuit reversed the decision of the state court, finding that the judge testified even though he was not formally called as a witness. See 427 F.2d at 415-16. The court also found that the judge's testimony violated appellant's due process right to a fair an impartial trial. See id.