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Jones v. Kelley

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

May 1, 2018

QUENTON V. JONES PETITIONER
v.
WENDY KELLEY, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT

          ORDER FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Court Judge James M. Moody Jr. 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 Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         DISPOSITION

         Petitioner Quenton V. Jones (“Jones”) seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. Jones is currently in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) after pleading guilty in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, committing a felony with a firearm, and committing the offenses in the presence of a child. The convictions for committing a felony with a firearm and committing the offenses in the presence of a child were enhancements to the first-degree murder conviction. As a result, the sentences for these convictions were required, by statute, to run consecutive to the other sentence. Jones was sentenced to 360 months imprisonment for first-degree murder, and 360 months for attempted first-degree murder, with these sentences to run concurrent. He was sentenced to 120 months for committing a felony with a firearm, and 180 months for committing the offenses in the presence of a child. All told, Jones was sentenced to 660 months imprisonment.

         Because he entered guilty pleas, Jones could not take a direct appeal of the convictions. He filed a timely Rule 37 petition, alleging that trial counsel Ron Davis (“Davis”)was ineffective in the following ways: (1) having limited conversations prior to the entry of the plea; (2) failing to provide Jones with discovery; (3) suggesting to Jones that Davis' relationship with the trial judge would secure a minimum or suspended sentence; and (4) failing to inform Jones about the sentencing enhancements which resulted in his receiving consecutive sentences. The trial court, citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), denied the petition without a hearing, and Jones successfully appealed. Jones v. State, 2015 Ark. 119. The Supreme Court of Arkansas held:

In an appeal from the denial of postconviction relief, this court considers whether, based on the totality of the evidence, the circuit court clearly erred in holding that counsel's performance was not ineffective under the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). See, e.g., Mister v. State, 2014 Ark. 445, at 1-2, 446 S.W.3d 624, 625. Under Strickland, a petitioner raising a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must first show that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the “counsel” guaranteed the petitioner by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. A petitioner making an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim must show that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Id. at 687-88. In doing so, the claimant must overcome a strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Id. at 689. Further, the petitioner must show that counsel's deficient performance so prejudiced petitioner's defense that he was deprived of a fair trial. Id. at 687. To establish prejudice and prove that he was deprived of a fair trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner who has pleaded guilty must demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the petitioner would not have so pleaded and would have insisted on going to trial. Buchheit v. State, 339 Ark. 481, 483, 6 S.W.3d 109, 111 (1999) (per curiam) (citing Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985)).
Here, Jones's petition asserted that had he been better informed about the law and the sentencing enhancements, had he been able to review the discovery material, and had he not relied on his counsel's statements about his ability to persuade the court, he would not have entered his guilty plea and would have gone to trial. Thus, his petition makes specific allegations that Davis's performance was deficient and that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial. The circuit court, however, considered whether there was a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's error, the fact finder would have had a reasonable doubt respecting guilt, and not, as required by Hill, whether there was a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.
Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.3(a) requires an evidentiary hearing in a postconviction proceeding unless the files and records of the case conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief. Sparkman v. State, 373 Ark. 45, 48, 281 S.W.3d 277, 280 (2008). Given that Jones's petition made sufficient allegations to create a question of fact that his counsel's performance was deficient and that the circuit court applied the wrong standard in reviewing Jones's petition, we reverse and remand the case to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing on Jones's claims.

Jones v. State, 2015 Ark. 119, 4-6.

         In August of 2015, an evidentiary hearing was conducted pursuant to the instructions of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. Jones, his stepfather, mother, father, and wife testified, as well as Davis. Ivor Gordon (“Gordon”), Jones' co-defendant, also appeared and testified over the objection of the prosecution. Docket entry no. 17, pages 123-269. In October of 2015, the trial court, citing Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985), entered an Order denying Rule 37 relief. The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the trial court's decision. Jones v. State, 2016 Ark. 304.

         In his federal habeas corpus petition Jones alleges:

(1) He received ineffective assistance of counsel due to Davis' failure to investigate and submit the state's case to an adversarial testing;
(2) Davis coerced him into entering the guilty pleas, using deceit and fraudulent practices;
(3) Constructive denial of counsel;
(4) Denial of right to jury trial;
(5) Lack of adversary process; and
(6) Davis acted under a conflict of interest.[1]

         Respondent Wendy Kelley (“Kelley”) contends the petition should be dismissed and relief denied. She argues that grounds one and two should be denied because the state court adjudication of those claims is entitled to deference pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Kelley argues that claims three, four, five, and six should be dismissed as they are procedurally barred, ...


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