State v. Ferguson

In State v. Ferguson, 166 Wis. 2d 317, 479 N.W.2d 241 (Ct. App. 1991), the State promised to argue for an imposed and stayed sentence. At the sentencing when arguing for a substantial sentence, the prosecutor spoke at some length about the severity of the offense, using terms such as "perverted," "worst of all crimes," "the sickest case that I have seen," and referred to the defendant as "sleaze." See Ferguson, 166 Wis. 2d at 319-20. Only after these highly charged comments did the prosecutor recite the State's request for an imposed and stayed sentence. The defendant argued that the prosecutor's inflammatory language violated the plea agreement. See id. at 321. The court of appeals disagreed: "The plea agreement in this case did not prohibit the state from informing the trial court of aggravating sentencing factors. Nor could it. At sentencing, pertinent factors relating to the defendant's character and behavioral pattern cannot "be immunized by a plea agreement between the defendant and the state." Elias v. State, 93 Wis. 2d 278, 285, 286 N.W.2d 559, 562 (1980). A plea agreement which does not allow the sentencing court to be apprised of relevant information is void as against public policy. State v. McQuay, 154 Wis. 2d 116, 125-26, 452 N.W.2d 377, 381 (1990) (quoting Grant v. State, 73 Wis. 2d 441, 448, 243 N.W.2d 186, 190 (1976), writ of habeas corpus granted, 450 F. Supp. 575 (E.D. Wis. 1978)." (Ferguson, 166 Wis. 2d at 324.)