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Robinson v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

April 5, 2018

CHARLES EDWARD ROBINSON ADC #159800 PETITIONER
v.
WENDY KELLEY, Director Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Discussion

         Pending before the Court is a § 2254 Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Charles Edward Robinson (“Robinson”), an Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) inmate. Doc. 1. Before addressing Robinson's habeas claims, the Court will review the procedural history of the case in state court.

         On December 8, 2014, Robinson appeared in Pulaski County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to charges in three separate cases:[1]

. Case No. 60CR-11-3885: aggravated robbery (with a firearm enhancement), theft of property, and possession of firearms by certain persons. Robinson was represented by Kathryn Hudson in this case. Doc. 10-2.
. Case No. 60CR-13-851: robbery and theft of property. Jessica Duncan was his attorney in this case. Doc. 10-3.
. Case No. 60CR-13-933: possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Duncan was his attorney. Doc. 10-4.

         Before entering those guilty pleas, Robinson and his attorneys signed Plea Statements in each of his cases. Those Plea Statements, marked Court's Exs. 1, 2 & 3, are attached to this Recommendation.

         On January 15, 2015, Robinson appeared with his attorneys for a sentencing hearing in the three cases.[2] At the hearing, the trial court sentenced him, as a habitual offender, to an aggregate imprisonment term of 60 years, as follows:

. Case No. 60CR-11-3885: 30 years for the aggravated robbery conviction, plus a consecutive 15-year firearm enhancement; 30 years for the theft of property conviction; and 3 years for the firearm-possession conviction, for a total imprisonment term of 45 years. Doc. 10-2.
. Case No. 60CR-13-851: 30 years for the robbery conviction, and 30 years for the theft conviction, to be served concurrently with each other and the sentences in his other cases. Doc. 10-3.
. Case No. 60CR-13-933: 15 years for possession of a controlled substance, to be served consecutively to the 45-year sentence in Case No. 60CR-11-3885. Doc. 10-4.

         Robinson did not pursue a direct appeal of his convictions or sentences.[3]

         On April 13, 2015, Robinson filed a timely pro se Rule 37 petition in the trial court, arguing that his attorneys were constitutionally ineffective in all three cases. Doc. 10-5. However, his only specific claims were that: (1) Hudson failed to inform him that the prosecutor had made a plea offer of a fifteen-year sentence, with five years suspended, in Case No. 60CR-11-3885; and (2) his attorneys “coerced” him into pleading guilty.[4] Id. at 4-8. On September 2, 2015, the trial court entered an order denying Rule 37 relief. Doc. 10-6.

         On March 10, 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order denying Rule 37 relief. Robinson v. State, 2016 Ark. 110, 486 S.W.3d 201.

         On February 6, 2017, Robinson filed this § 2254 habeas action. Doc. 1. The Court has liberally construed his pro se habeas papers as raising two claims: (1) his attorneys were constitutionally ineffective in advising him to plead guilty in the three cases (Doc. 1 at 5; Doc. 14 at 6-7);[5] and (2) Hudson failed to communicate a plea offer to him in Case No. 60CR-11-3885 (Doc. 14 at 2).

         In her Response, Respondent argues that the § 2254 action should be dismissed because the Arkansas Supreme Court reasonably adjudicated Robinson's ineffective assistance of counsel claims in his Rule 37 proceedings. Doc. 10.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Robinson's § 2254 Petition be denied, and that the case be dismissed, with prejudice.

         II. Discussion

         A. Robinson's Claim That His Attorneys Were Constitutionally Ineffective In Advising Him to Plead Guilty

         In Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58-59 (1985), the Court held that review of a challenge to a guilty plea, based on ineffective assistance of counsel, is governed by the two-part test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under Strickland, a defendant must establish: first, that the attorney's conduct fell below ''an objective standard of reasonableness''; and, second, that the attorney's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant's defense. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88.[6] In the context of a guilty plea, ''prejudice'' requires a ...


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