The Sentence Agreement is a friend of the criminal defense lawyer. A sentence agreement is a concept that can take the guessing out of what sentence a defendant will receive when a plea is made. The two types of sentence agreements that are used in the state of Michigan are the Killebrew and the Cobbs Agreement.
At first glance, the terms Killebrew and Cobbs sound like the names of famous baseball players (Ty Cobb and Harmon Killebrew. The difference between the two agreements can be the difference between freedom and incarceration. Let’s begin by discussing the less powerful of the two concepts: The Killebrew Agreement.
The Killebrew Agreement is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The plea deal will be presented to the sentencing judge after the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) is completed. If the judge refuses to follow the agreement, the defendant has a right to withdraw the plea and pursue a trial.
The Cobbs Agreement, or as they say in Macomb County, a “Cobbs Evaluation,” is a sentence agreement provided by the judge. This agreement carries more weight because the judge granted his or her approval before the entry of such. However, a PSI can compromise the deal. To have a better understanding of these sentence agreements, we spoke to several lawyers across the state of Michigan.
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of the McManus, and Amadeo is Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus is known as one of the top research attorneys in the state of Michigan and the federal court system. When asked about sentence agreements, McManus stated, “When you can use a sentence agreement on a case that is not going to trial, it is a powerful tool. Many lawyers used the sentence agreement as a crutch, but not every court will allow them.”
Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo. She is a top family lawyer in the state of Michigan. When asked about sentence agreements, Kelley commented, “Many times in family law matters, an issue that comes into play is the criminal record of the party. If there is a solid sentence agreement in place such as a deferred, delayed sentence or an HYTA resolution, that could make a major difference in negotiations.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan. When asked about the sentence agreement, Amadeo said, “It is not always easy to gauge the temperature of your judge. Wayne County is very big into sentence agreements, but that is a very different view in a place like Macomb or Jackson. I think a lot of criminal defense lawyers forget the power of the probation department. The smaller the community, the more powerful of a role the probation department will play in sentence decisions. The probation officer can compromise the sentence agreement, and This needs to be understood when you enter negotiations.”
Nancy Eaton-Gordon is a partner at “Jackson Eaton-Gordon” in Lenawee County, Michigan. Eaton-Gordon is a top estate planning lawyer and a strong criminal defense attorney and provided her thoughts when she said, “It’s all about geography. In Lenawee, we recently had a new judge placed on our circuit court, and there is a new learning curve in place. We have an excellent bench with Judge Anna Marie Anzalone and Judge Michael Olsaver. Our bench has different needs than others, so the defense lawyer should study the playing field when trying to advocate for a sentence agreement.”
Christian Wiesenberg is the founder of “The Fidelis Law Firm” and has quickly gained a reputation as a top criminal defense lawyer. Weissenberg just resolved a capital case in Washtenaw County with a fantastic deal. When asked about his recent success, Wiesenberg said, “It took many court appearances, but we presented a deal that was a win-win. The client saved over a decade at the Michigan Department of Corrections based on the efforts put forward. Sometimes going the extra mile can preserve the freedom of your client. If the judge respects your work ethic, you have a better opportunity of the sentence agreement being followed.”
When we examine the issue of sentence agreements, the attorney needs to know the type of agreements in place and, more importantly, if the judge will entertain such an agreement. During the COVID-19 tragedy, the terms Cobbs and Killebrew carry much higher weight.