State of Utah v. David S. Nielsen

2011 UT App 211
Filed June 30, 2011
Per Curiam Decision

The Utah Court of Appeals held that the defendant could not withdraw his guilty pleas on the grounds that they were not given voluntarily because factual findings indicated that he did give them voluntarily and because he did not provide an adequate record for the appellate court to review.

The trial court denied Mr. Nielsen’s motion to withdraw his two guilty pleas and Mr. Nielsen appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals. Mr. Nielsen argued that his guilty pleas were not voluntary because his mental illness makes him prone to give in to the influence of others.

The Court of Appeals denied Mr. Nielsen’s appeal for two reasons. First, in a two day evidentiary hearing on the motion, the trial court made factual findings that indicated that Mr. Nielsen pleas were voluntary: (1) His therapist testified that he was not manic at the time he made the pleas or in the following weeks. (2) Mr. Nielsen testified that after meeting for two hours with his lawyers the evening before he still had not decided whether to plead guilty. (3) At the hearing he was not confused, he readily responded to questions, and he interrupted to correct factual misstatements by the prosecutor.

Second, Mr. Nielsen did not provide the Court of Appeals with an adequate factual record from which to review the trial court’s decision. He provided a transcript from the first day of the hearing but not from the second, and the trial court based much of its decision on testimony from the second day. The defendant has the burden to provide an adequate record, and if he does not the appellate court will presume the regularity of the proceedings below.


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