SALT LAKE CITY — When the judge asked Brandon Keith Thompson whether the facts stated in his murder plea bargain were accurate, the defendant said, “For the most part, yes.”
Did he want to put any clarifications on the record, the judge asked. The Tremonton man said no.
But after Judge Brandon Maynard of Brigham City then sentenced Thompson to 15 years to life in prison for killing roommate Michael Hogenson on April 16, 2018, Thompson tried to withdraw his guilty plea.
The Utah Court of Appeals, in an opinion released Nov. 5, rejected his appeal, ruling that Maynard properly refused to let Thompson, 32, withdraw his guilty plea.
Authorities said in court records that Thompson shot Hogenson, 33, several times after a confrontation, one bullet severing his femoral artery, leading him to soon bleed to death.
Thompson claimed self defense, contending Hogenson was charging up the stairs toward him.
His attorneys were preparing a self-defense case but became increasingly concerned about their ability to prevail, according to the appeals court opinion.
The evidence showed none of the gunshot wounds were in the front of Hogenson’s body, and the pooling of the victim’s blood and the location of shell casings were inconsistent with Thompson’s claims.
Further, Thompson waited two hours before calling police, tried to get rid of the gun and Hogenson’s identification and called several people, the court record showed.
The defense attorneys therefore convinced Thompson to accept a plea bargain down from a charge of first-degree felony aggravated murder, avoiding the possibility of life in prison without parole.
Thompson got new attorneys and argued that he was not adequately informed regarding self-defense and did not know the state had the burden of disproving a claim of self-defense, according to the record.
But after a hearing, Maynard found the original attorneys were “much more credible” than Thompson.
Thompson also claimed he was coerced into the plea bargain, but Maynard ruled Thompson’s assertions were “solely a product of his own thoughts and misperception.”
Thompson further contended Maynard failed to adequately probe the contradiction of the defendant initially claiming self-defense and then pleading guilty to murder.
But the appeals court said it had no basis to conclude Maynard was wrong in refusing to allow withdrawal of his plea.
“Thompson’s failure to engage with the evidence on which the district court relied precludes him from carrying his burden of persuasion to demonstrate that the court’s findings were clearly erroneous,” the court said, “or that the court exceeded its discretion in determining, based on those findings, that Thompson’s plea was knowing and voluntary.”