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State of Hawaii, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Cynthia L. Edwards

September 30, 2011

STATE OF HAWAII, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CYNTHIA L. EDWARDS, AKA CYNTHIA LYNNETTE EDWARDS, AKA CYNTHIA DESTINY THOMAS, AKA DESTINY O'HARA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (CR NO. 09-1-0392)

NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER

SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER

(By: Nakamura, C.J., and Reifurth and Ginoza, JJ.)

Defendant-Appellant Cynthia L. Edwards (Edwards), also known as Cynthia Lynnette Edwards, Cynthia Destiny Thomas, and Destiny O'Hara, appeals from the Judgment of Conviction and Probation Sentence (Judgment) entered on July 30, 2010, by the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit (Circuit Court).*fn1 Plaintiff- Appellee State of Hawaii (State) charged Edwards by indictment with two counts of theft by deception. The indictment alleged that Edwards had committed: (1) second degree theft by obtaining food stamp benefits valued at more than $300 belonging to the State of Hawaii (Count 1); and (2) first degree theft by obtaining supplemental security income benefits valued at more than $20,000 belonging to the United States of America (Count 2). Pursuant to a plea agreement, Edwards pleaded no contest to Count 1 in return for the State's agreement to dismiss Count 2 and to recommend five years of probation, subject to one year of jail, with credit for time served and the remainder of the term stayed upon compliance with the conditions of probation. The Circuit Court accepted Edwards's no-contest plea and sentenced her to probation upon the recommended conditions.

On appeal, Edwards contends that: (1) the Circuit Court abused its discretion in accepting her no-contest plea without inquiring about whether she had a mental health disability; and (2) her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly address her psychological and mental health competency before allowing her to plead. We affirm the Circuit Court's Judgment.

I.

Edwards was in custody in Florida when a Hawaii grand jury returned her indictment. In December 2009, Florida authorities placed a detainer on Edwards pursuant to a request by the State. Edwards waived extradition in Florida and was returned to Hawaii. On May 18, 2010, Edwards appeared in Circuit Court and was represented by a Deputy Public Defender (DPD). The DPD requested a bail study. A bail study dated May 18, 2010, stated that "[Edwards] claims to have no mental health, medical, nor physical issues." An updated bail study dated June 22, 2010, revealed that Edwards continued to have no claims regarding mental health, medical, or physical issues. On June 29, 2010, the DPD representing Edwards filed a motion seeking an order releasing Edwards on supervised release or a reduction in her bail. In support of this motion, the DPD submitted the DPD's declaration, which stated, among other things:

c. On June 28, 2010 I personally spoke to Susan Segawa, the psychiatric social worker at HCCC. Ms. Segawa expressed her belief that [Edwards's] psychological and medical condition cannot be adequately treated while in custody. Ms. Segawa further expressed the opinion that she does not think [Edwards] is a threat to herself or others.

About a month later, on July 26, 2010, Edwards entered a no-contest plea to Count 1. During the plea colloquy, neither Edwards nor the DPD expressed any concern with Edwards's mental competence to enter a no-contest plea or advised the Circuit Court that Edwards was suffering from a mental health disability or illness. Edwards informed the Circuit Court that she was thinking clearly, and she advised the Circuit Court that she understood the charges and the various matters the Circuit Court explained to her. The Circuit Court found that Edwards understood the consequences of her plea and that she had "knowing[ly], voluntarily, and intelligently entered into this plea and waived her right to trial." The Circuit Court accepted Edwards's no-contest plea and the parties agreed to proceed immediately to sentencing.

With respect to Edwards's sentencing, the Circuit Court asked if there was going to be any issue about drug conditions and mental health conditions. The prosecutor asked for drug conditions "because of her prior" and the defense did not object. With respect to mental health conditions, the following discussion took place between the Circuit Court, the prosecutor and the DPD:

THE COURT: . . . [A]re you going to be asking for mental health conditions? No?

[Prosecutor]: She'll probably benefit by an assessment. I think she'd probably agree to that.

Uh, Ms. Segawa is in Court today. She's the social worker in the jail, and I think she believes that [Edwards] will probably benefit by ...


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