The highest criminal court in Texas recently set aside the judgment of Rolando Garcia, who had been convicted a third degree felony offense of possession of marijuana. Mr. Garcia’s judgment carried with it a prison sentence of three years. However, the only reason Mr. Garcia had pleaded guilty and accepted the plea deal of a three- year sentence was because the prosecutor had charged Mr. Garcia with the offense of felony possession. Despite the charge of felony possession, laboratory testing of the substance involved in Mr. Garcia’s case revealed that the prosecutor could not prove Mr. Garcia actually possessed a felony quantity of marijuana.
As a result of the revelation by the laboratory testing, the parties in this case agreed that Mr. Garcia would not have pleaded guilty in exchange for a three-year sentence if he had known that the prosecutor could only have proven Mr. Garcia possessed merely a misdemeanor quantity of marijuana. Mr. Garcia’s defense argued to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Mr. Garcia’s guilty plea was involuntary because he is actually innocent of the felony offense to which he pleaded guilty.
In response to Mr. Garcia’s argument, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a writ based on actual innocence.