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PRP Granted: Alford Plea to be Withdrawn

In May 1985, Washington State resident, Clyde R. Spencer, entered an Alford plea in answer to numerous charges of statutory rape and complicity to commit statutory rape. The only evidence against him was the testimony of his two biological children and his one step-child, ranged in age from five to eight years old.

On December 23, 2004, after almost 20 years of incarceration, his imprisonment was conditionally commuted to community custody, which required him to register as a sex offender. He subsequently filed a Personal Restraint Petition (PRP) seeking either a vacation of his conviction or a reference hearing to determine if he should be allowed to withdraw his Alford plea. In support of his PRP, he submitted written declarations from his now-adult children recanting their previous testimony. He also submitted medical reports from examinations of his children in 1985, which indicated no physical injuries or signs of abuse. These reports were withheld from Spencer at the time of his plea. His request for a reference hearing was granted, and it was conducted July 10, 2009. Following this hearing, when the state persisted in its refusal to allow Spencer to withdraw his Alford plea, he appealed that decision.

The appellate court then determined that the new evidence presented by Spencer was sufficient to change the factual basis of his original Alford plea. Specifically, they Judged the new evidence l) will probably change the result of the trial, 2) was discovered after the trial, 3) could not have been discovered before trial by the exercise of due diligence, 4) is material and 5) is not merely cumulative or impeaching.

Consequently, Spencer's petition was granted, and the case was remanded to allow him to withdraw his Alford plea.

See: In re Personal Restraint of Spencer, WA. App. Ct., Div. II, #37229-1-II.

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Related legal case

In re Personal Restraint of Spencer