Kernan v. Cuero
US Supreme Court
Kernan v. Cuero, 2017 WL 5076049 (U.S.,2017)
Decided November 6, 2017
No Specific Performance Enforced On Sentencing Promise Made By The Prosecution
Issue: Whether the California state court decision to amend a criminal complaint after a plea, leading to a higher sentence, involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. More specifically, whether the US Supreme Court’s prior decisions required the state court to impose defendant’s original lower sentence or, instead, permit the state to amend a criminal complaint after a plea where it would lead to a higher sentence.
Holding: The Supreme Court held that its prior rulings did not clearly require the state court to impose the original sentence of the plea agreement. “Federal law” as interpreted by the US Supreme Court does not clearly establish that specific performance is constitutionally required.
Facts: In 2005, the state of California charged Cuero with two felonies and a misdemeanor. Cuero originally pleaded “not guilty” but soon after changed his plea to “guilty.” Cuero signed the plea agreement, which stated Cuero “may receive this maximum punishment as a result of my plea: 14 years, 4 months in State Prison, $10,000 fine and 4 years parole.”