United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
TERENCE KERN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of
habeas corpus (Dkt. # 1) filed by Petitioner Jessie Denton
Roach, a state inmate appearing pro se. Petitioner claims the
judgment and sentence entered against him in the District
Court of Tulsa County, Case No. CF-2012-1659, is
unconstitutional because (1) he received ineffective
assistance of counsel during a post-plea hearing to withdraw
his pleas, and (2) he received an excessive sentence.
Respondent filed a response in opposition to the petition
(Dkt. # 12) and provided the state court record (Dkt. ## 12,
13) necessary to adjudicate Petitioner's claims.
Petitioner did not file a reply. For the reasons that follow,
the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to federal
habeas relief and denies his habeas petition.
2012, the State of Oklahoma charged Petitioner and his wife,
Delores Roach, jointly, in the District Court of Tulsa
County, Case No. CF-2012-1659, with three counts of child
neglect, in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 843.5(C)
(2011) (Counts 2, 3 and 5), and one count of child abuse by
injury, in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 843.5(A)
(2011) (Count 4). Dkt. # 13-1, Orig. Rec. vol. 1, at
67-70. The State alleged one additional count of
child abuse by injury, in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 21,
§ 843.5(A) (2011) (Count 1) only against Petitioner.
Id. at 67. The State alleged that between February
29, 2012, and April 2, 2012, Petitioner and Roach physically
abused and neglected Petitioner's six-year-old stepson,
J.B., by (1) failing to provide sufficient food, resulting in
J.B.'s severe malnourishment, and (2) failing to obtain
or provide proper medical care for injuries J.B. sustained
through the physical abuse, including a fractured clavicle
bone. Id. at 67-68.
November 8, 2013, Delores Roach entered blind
pleas of guilty to three counts of child neglect
(Counts 2, 3, and 5), and the State dismissed the charge
against her for child abuse by injury (Count 4). Dkt. # 13-2,
Orig. Rec. vol 2, at 4-13. One week later, Petitioner,
represented by Assistant Public Defender Adam Haselgren,
entered blind pleas of guilty to all five charges against
him. Dkt. # 12-1, Plea of Guilty/Summary of Facts, ¶
2-4; Dkt. # 13-5, Tr. Plea Hr'g, at 3-13. As a factual
basis for his pleas, Petitioner stated:
Between 2/29/12 & 4/2/12 the victim J.B. was disciplined
by me w/ a belt to his rear and excessive force was used thus
causing bruising. Additionally, J.B. developed severe skin
rash/condition that was improperly Attended to by me &
Deloris [sic] Roach leading to delayed healing &
prolonged scabbing. Additionally, Discipline by us led to a
broken collar bone which was was [sic] left unattended all
occurred in Tulsa Co. Additionally due to insufficient care
by me & Co∆ J.B. became malnurished [sic].
Dkt. # 12-1, at 4. During the plea hearing, the trial court
placed Petitioner under oath and conducted a thorough plea
colloquy. Dkt. # 13-5, Tr. Plea Hr'g, at 4-8. Based on
Petitioner's responses to the court's questions, the
court determined that Petitioner understood (1) the charges
against him and the range of punishment for each crime, (2)
that he was waiving significant trial rights by entering a
plea, (3) the nature and consequences of entering a blind
plea, and (4) agreed with the contents of the written plea
form. Id. at 4-9. When the court asked whether
Petitioner was “pleased with” Haselgren's
representation, Petitioner stated, “Yes, sir.”
Id. at 8. In response to further questions from the
court, Petitioner stated that his decision to plead guilty
did not result from promises, threats or coercion but that he
instead chose to plead guilty “freely and
voluntarily.” Id. at 10. Finally, the court
read the factual basis from the written plea form, and
Petitioner confirmed that the factual basis was
“correct.” Id. at 10-11. At the
conclusion of the hearing, the court accepted
Petitioner's guilty pleas as knowing and voluntary, but
withheld a finding of guilt. Id. at 11-12. The court
advised Petitioner that the State would be presenting
evidence at sentencing to support the State's sentencing
recommendations, and that for each conviction the court could
impose a sentence “between zero and life. Id.
at 9. Haselgren told the court that he “may”
present mitigation witnesses as well. Id.
December 19, 2013, the trial court held a joint sentencing
hearing for Petitioner and Delores Roach. Dkt. # 13-6, Tr.
Sent. Hr'g, at 4. Haselgren represented Petitioner at the
hearing. Id. J.B., who was eight years old at the
time of sentencing, testified in camera about the
regular beatings Petitioner gave him, most often with a belt,
and Petitioner's insistence that J.B. eat meals within a
short time frame at the risk of additional beatings.
Id. at 5-17. The State also presented testimony from
J.B.'s pediatrician, J.B.'s then-current foster
mother, and J.B.'s former foster mother, regarding the
extent and seriousness of J.B.'s injuries, his
development after he was removed from Petitioner and
Roach's home, and J.B.'s long-term prognosis for
recovering, emotionally and physically, from the abuse.
Id. at 3, 27-91. Relying on this evidence, the State
recommended consecutive life sentences. Id. at
did not call any witnesses at the hearing, but he
cross-examined each of the State's witnesses. Dkt. #
13-6, Tr. Sent. Hr'g, at 3. Through cross-examination,
Haselgren elicited testimony that Petitioner and Roach sought
treatment for J.B.'s head injuries and consulted with
doctors about J.B.'s “failure to thrive.”
Id. at 51-56, 60-62. Haselgren urged the court to
impose “a probated sentence” based on
Petitioner's efforts to seek treatment for J.B.'s
injuries, Petitioner's age (51), and Petitioner's
lack of prior criminal history. Id. at 106-10.
the presentation of evidence and arguments, the trial court
adjudged Petitioner guilty, imposed life sentences on Counts
1 and 4, to be served consecutively, and imposed 25-year
prison terms on Counts 2, 3 and 5, to be served concurrently
with each other and with the consecutive life
sentences. Dkt. # 13-6, Tr. Sent. Hr'g, at
112-13. The trial court advised Petitioner (1) that he would
“have ten days from [the hearing] to file an
application to withdraw [the] plea, ” (2) that if
Petitioner moved to withdraw his pleas the court would hold a
hearing within 30 days, and (3) that Petitioner would
“have ten days to appeal [the court's] decision to
the Court of Criminal Appeals” if the court denied his
motion. Id. at 113-14. Petitioner verbalized that he
understood his appeal rights. Id. at 114.
Petitioner's request, Haselgren filed a timely motion to
withdraw his pleas. Dkt. # 12-3. Under the heading
“ISSUES REGARDING REQUEST FOR CONFLICT
COUNSEL, ” Petitioner identified the basis for
his motion as follows:
In support of his motion to withdraw his plea of guilty the
Defendant [alone] asserts that at the time
of his sentencing, the testimony of the state's witnesses
during the aggravation phase was incorrect and did not
accurately reflect the true facts of the case this he alleges
ultimately led to an excessively high and disproportionate
Id. at 1 (alteration in original).
trial court held a hearing on the motion on January 29, 2014.
Dkt. # 13-8, Tr. Mot. Hr'g, at 1. Haselgren's
colleague from the Tulsa County Public Defender's Office
(TCPDO), Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Singer,
represented Petitioner at the hearing because Haselgren had
to leave the state the night before the hearing for a family
emergency. Id. at 4; Dkt. # 12-7, at 13 (Singer
Affidavit, dated Dec. 10, 2014). During the hearing, Singer
asked Petitioner about his understanding of the plea process
and about the “facts” he believed were not
accurate. Dkt. #13-8, Tr. Mot. Hr'g, at 5-7. Petitioner
testified he did not understand that by entering a blind plea
he would not “have an appeals process.”
Id. at 6. He also testified Haselgren told him he
“could turn around and withdraw [his] plea within ten
days.” Id. Singer then asked, “With
respect to the factual basis that you pled guilty to,
you're also saying that was incorrect, is that
right?” Id. at 6. Petitioner responded to that
and additional questions as follows:
A. [Petitioner] The claims I pled guilty to, yes, but the
other items that was brought up and introduced, no.
Q. [Singer] Which ones are those?
A. About beating our child. We've never beat our child.
Different aspect of it. Said that this went on for years.
We've never-never done anything to our child for years.
If that was the case then why didn't the school turn us
in? Or why didn't the doctors turn us in? Or why
didn't the ERs turn us in?
All of the time that he's been in and functions he's
been to and all the different facilities.
Q. Would you have entered a guilty plea if you would have
known that you would not be able to withdraw it within ten
A. No, I would not have.
Id. at 6-7. The prosecutor cross-examined Petitioner
about the statements he made on the written plea form and
under oath during the plea hearing. Id. at 7-9.
Petitioner testified that he did not remember discussing with
Haselgren the questions on the form relating to appeal
rights. Id. at 8-9. Petitioner did remember that the
trial court asked if he signed the form and advised him that
he would have ten days “[t]o withdraw the plea.”
Id. at 9. After the court asked Petitioner several
additional questions about the plea hearing, the court
queried, “So what you're telling me is you thought
that you could enter this plea and if you changed your mind
within ten days, then you believed you could get your trial
rights back, is that right?” Dkt. # 13-8, Tr. Mot.
Hr'g, at 9-12. Petitioner responded, “Yes,
sir.” Id. at 12. The court reminded Petitioner
that the court had expressly advised him, at the plea
hearing, that he could “file an application to withdraw
[his] plea, ” obtain a hearing, and appeal an adverse
ruling. Id. at 12-13. The court then characterized
Petitioner's request to withdraw his pleas as a case of
“buyer's remorse” stemming from
Petitioner's dislike of “the results” of his
decision to plead guilty. Id. at 13. To that,
The results had nothing to do with it. I feel that a-I feel
that a-I feel that we weren't represented properly
because of the fact that any questions that my lawyer asked
was the same answer was over and over was the fact that,
well, we didn't review that part of the case. And the
fact that, you know- the time doesn't matter either way
because I know if I go to trial I can get more time than I
have now. It's just the idea of the fact that I don't
have an appeal process this way. I was come to it at the last
minute with it and, basically, felt that I had to blind plea
because I was told that by co-defendant filing a blind plea
that I didn't have a choice.
Id. at 13. The court advised Petitioner that his
appeal rights were “intact” and that his motion
to withdraw his pleas would be denied. Id. at 13-14.
The court subsequently filed a written order denying
Petitioner's motion to withdraw his pleas. Dkt. # 12-4.
9, 2014, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA)
granted Petitioner's request to file a certiorari appeal
out of time. Dkt. # 12-8, at 1.
by attorney Stuart Southerland, Petitioner filed a petition
for writ of certiorari with the OCCA,  along with a
supporting brief. Dkt. ## 12-5, ...