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Roach v. Allbaugh

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 26, 2019

JESSIE DENTON ROACH, Petitioner,
v.
JOE M. ALLBAUGH, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE KERN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before 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.

         BACKGROUND

         In May 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.[1] 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.

         On November 8, 2013, Delores Roach entered blind pleas[2] 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.

         On 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.[3] 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 101-02.

         Haselgren 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.

         Following 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.[4] 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.

         At 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 sentence.

Id. at 1 (alteration in original).

         The 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 days?
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, Petitioner responded,

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.

         On May 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.

         Represented by attorney Stuart Southerland, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the OCCA, [5] along with a supporting brief. Dkt. ## 12-5, ...


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