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Miles v. Martel

March 17, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeremy Fogel United States District Judge


Petitioner Tyrone Wayland Miles, a prisoner incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (2010). He asserts two claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his rights guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.


Petitioner was charged in an information with three counts of forgery for passing fictitious checks, see Cal. Penal Code § 476 (2005), and one count of second-degree burglary, see id. §§ 459--60. It also was alleged that Petitioner had two prior felony convictions that qualified as strikes under California's Three Strikes Law, id. § 667; accordingly, Petitioner faced twenty-five years to life for each count, to be served consecutively; Petitioner's total maximum exposure was one hundred years to life.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and admitted the two strikes. In exchange for his plea, the prosecution dismissed the three other counts and agreed not to file additional charges for other forgeries Petitioner may have committed. Petitioner was told that he probably would be sentenced to twenty-five years to life on the one count to which he pleaded guilty, but he retained the right to request at sentencing that the court dismiss one strike, which would result in a reduced sentence.

Petitioner did make such a request at sentencing, but, as expected, the trial court determined that there was no basis for granting the request, and it was denied. Petitioner was sentenced Petitioner to a term of twenty-five years to life.


One component of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee that a person may not be deprived of life or liberty "without due process of law," U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1, is the Sixth Amendment's provision of a criminal defendant's right "to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence," U.S. Const. amend. VI. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). "It has long been recognized that the right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of counsel." McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771 n.14 (1970).

To obtain relief on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner must satisfy the test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). "Ineffective assistance under Strickland is deficient performance by counsel resulting in prejudice, with performance measured against an objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms." Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Counsel's performance must be assessed "from counsel's perspective at the time," so as "to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. There is "a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance"; hence "[j]udicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential." Id. To establish prejudice, Petitioner "must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. at 694.


In his first claim, Petitioner contends that his first trial counsel provided ineffective assistance during the plea-bargaining process prior to the entry of the plea agreement. According to Petitioner, the prosecutor initially offered a sentence of six years in exchange for a guilty plea. Petitioner was inclined to accept this offer; however, his counsel recommended that he decline. In doing so, his counsel did not inform him of the fact that his sentencing exposure was one hundred years to life. Petitioner relied on counsel's advice and declined the offer. Had counsel rendered effective assistance during the plea-bargaining process, Petitioner would have accepted the initial offer and received a sentence of six years rather than the sentence of twenty-five years to life that he ultimately received upon pleading guilty.

Petitioner's claim relates to events that occurred before he entered his plea. However, such events do not form any basis upon which the Court may grant habeas relief: a criminal defendant who pleads guilty cannot later raise on habeas review independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to entering the plea. See Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306, 319--20 (1983) (guilty plea forecloses consideration of pre-plea constitutional deprivations); Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 266--67 (1973) (same); Moran v. Godinez, 57 F.3d 690, 700 (9th Cir. 1994) (refusing to consider contention that petitioner's attorneys were ineffective because they failed to attempt to prevent the use of his confession as pre-plea constitutional violation); see also Hudson v. Moran, 760 F.2d 1027, 1030 (9th Cir. 1985) (finding no constitutional violation where defendant was not informed that guilty plea would foreclose subsequent habeas relief).*fn1

The only challenges open on federal habeas review after a guilty plea relate to the voluntary and intelligent character of the actual plea bargain to which a petitioner assented. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56--57 (1985); Tollett, 411 U.S. at 267 (1973); Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 979 (9th Cir. 2004). Petitioner does not attack the voluntary and intelligent character of the actual plea bargain that he accepted on the record. Thus, even ...

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