Friday, October 30, 2015

Habeas Petitioner Denied Relief Where Counsel Erroneously Advised Petitioner Regarding Plea

Jones v. Bryant, 2015 WL 5472858 (9/18/15) (Okl.) (unpub'd) - The 10th affirms denial of a habeas petition claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Defense counsel advised Mr. Jones to reject a plea agreement to 10 years for burglary. Counsel told Mr. Jones he should take his chances with a blind plea to the charge, facing a sentence range of 7 to 20 years because, he would be eligible for "judicial review" through which the court could subsequently modify his sentence. Counsel gave this advice because he thought Mr. Jones only had one prior felony conviction. He based this conclusion on the criminal information and conversations with Mr. Jones. After the guilty plea, the presentence report revealed two prior felony convictions. This precluded judicial review. The court imposed the max 20-year sentence---2 times what Mr, Jones had been offered. In collateral proceedings, Mr. Jones contended counsel should have investigated his criminal history before advising him to reject the plea offer. Applying "double deference," [under both Strickland and AEDPA], the 10th finds no clearly established Supreme Court precedent that counsel performed unreasonably. Counsel could expect the state to act in its own interest and find all previous convictions at the charging phase Given the match between the criminal information and Mr. Jones' recitation of his criminal history, counsel could rely on the information he had. The 10th observes that the Supreme Court has rejected the proposition that "it is prima facie ineffective assistance of counsel to abandon an investigation of their client's background after having only a rudimentary knowledge of his history from a narrow set of sources." Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 1406 (2011)."