Friday, September 02, 2016

2255 Petitioner's Case Remanded for Consideration of the Merits of Petitioner's Claim that his Trial Counsel was Ineffective

U.S. v. Brown, 2016 WL 475207 (2/8/16) (Wyo.) (unpub'd) - Another habeas petitioner procedural victory, this time for a § 2255 movant. The facts indicate Mr. Brown got screwed. At a proffer meeting with state officials he gave information about his criminal activities to receive consideration in his state plea negotiations. He ended up pleading no contest to state charges. A state agent relayed Mr. Brown's statements to federal authorities. A week after the state plea, a federal grand jury charged him with 3 firearms counts. He was convicted at trial. The 10th affirmed, holding the admission of his statements was not plain error because he'd been warned he could not be immunized from federal charges. Mr. Brown alleged in a § 2255 motion that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in federal court due to the statements' inadmissibility under Federal Rule of Evidence 410, and at the state proffer meeting. The district court rejected the claims on invalid grounds which the government proffered before it and then abandoned on appeal. The 10th rules the district court was wrong to say Rule 410 didn't apply due to Mr. Brown's subsequent plea because Mr. Brown entered a no-contest plea, which Rule 410 applies to. The district court was also wrong to say the claim Mr. Brown raised had already been resolved on direct appeal because the 10th only addressed the admissibility issue, not the ineffective assistance issue. And the district court erroneously failed to address the complaint against state counsel, just as the government had failed to do.

The 10th decides not to affirm anyway based on the merits. The 10th reasons that: Mr. Brown did not have the chance to address in district court the new arguments the government made on appeal; and the government raised factual issues about trial strategy without anyone having a chance to develop the factual record. The 10th remands for the district court's consideration of the merits. The 10th suggests the lower court consider appointing counsel, allowing for supplemental briefs and holding an evidentiary hearing.