Crime

Judge refuses to let Winchester man withdraw guilty plea in 2014 murder case

The Winchester man charged with murder after a 2014 wreck tried to withdraw his guilty plea Monday, but his motion was overruled by the judge.

Angel Albino Mejia wrote a letter to Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell asking to withdraw his guilty plea made just before his scheduled trial in October 2014.

Mejia was originally charged with murder, first-degree wanton endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident after a crash on Interstate 64left one woman dead.

As a part of the plea deal, the charges of wanton endangerment and leaving the scene were dropped.

Lexington police say Mejia was driving at high speed on the evening of June 21, 2014, when his Ford Explorer collided with a Chevy Blazer on eastbound Interstate 64 in Fayette County.

A passenger in the Blazer, Wanda Beach, 68, of Somerset, was thrown from the vehicle and later died at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Mejia told Bunnell through an interpreter that his attorney, Braxton Crenshaw, had told him he’d get at least 40 years in prison if he went to trial..

Mejia said he felt he had no option but to plead guilty to get the prosecutor’s recommendation of 20 years.

Crenshaw said Monday he told Mejia he did not believe the odds were in his favor, but Crenshaw denied he coerced his client to plead guilty.

Crenshaw said it was his duty as a good attorney to advise his clients if the odds are stacked against them. But he never told Mejia that he couldn’t go to trial, Crenshaw said.

Mejia told the judge that he was nervous and afraid at the time, so he pleaded guilty. He said he started reading law books in prison and decided he shouldn’t have made the plea.

Bunnell said she watched the video of the day Mejia made the guilty plea.

“In the beginning you were obviously emotional,” she said. “I do not doubt at all that you were scared, nervous or sad or that you were regretful.”

But Bunnell said that Mejia had asked questions and was given opportunities to tell her if he was confused or did not want to enter the plea.

Bunnell said there was no threat or coercion by Mejia’s attorney, so she overruled Mejia’s motion to withdraw his plea.

Final sentencing in Mejia’s case is scheduled for Dec. 4.

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