State v. Thompson (1998)

In State v. Thompson, 167 Vt. 383, 387, 708 A.2d 192, 194 (1998), the Court determined that the trial court's acceptance of a mentally limited defendant's no-contest plea following a brief Rule 11 colloquy was plain error. In that case, the court found the defendant, who had an IQ below seventy, to be competent after hearing the examining psychiatrist testify that he was "marginally competent." At a later status conference, in response to questioning by defense counsel, the defendant revealed his lack of understanding as to the role of the jury and how a jury trial functioned. The Court concluded as follows: "Given defense counsel's continuing difficulty in communicating with his client, and the close question over whether defendant was competent to stand trial, it was imperative for the court at the status conference to assure that defendant fully understood the rights he would be waiving by entering his plea. Instead, the court accepted defendant's no-contest plea after only a brief colloquy that hardly touched on the requirements of Rule 11(c). . . . Considering that the court was fully aware of defendant's mental limitations, its failure to engage defendant in the required Rule 11 colloquy undermines confidence in the outcome of the proceedings and thus was plain error." Id.