United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
March 7, 2019, the magistrate judge entered a report and
recommendation. (Doc. 10). In the report, the magistrate
judge recommended that the Court regard this matter as a
motion to amend Mr. Jackson's prior petition in
Jackson v. State of Alabama, No. 14-2073-MHH-SGC and
that the Court deny the amended petition. (Doc.
On April 3, 2019, Mr. Jackson filed objections to the report
and recommendation and a motion to amend. (Docs. 13, 14).
district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). When
a party objects to a report and recommendation, the district
court must “make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(C). A district court reviews for plain error
proposed factual findings to which no objection is made, and
a district court reviews propositions of law de
novo. Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 779 n.9
(11th Cir. 1993); see also United States v. Slay,
714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983) (per curiam), cert.
denied, 464 U.S. 1050 (1984) (“The failure to
object to the magistrate's findings of fact prohibits an
attack on appeal of the factual findings adopted by the
district court except on grounds of plain error or manifest
injustice.”) (internal citation omitted); Macort v.
Prem, Inc., 208 Fed.Appx. 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006).
matter concerns Mr. Jackson's May 13, 2013 guilty plea on
two counts of first-degree sodomy and two counts of
first-degree sexual abuse in Jackson v. State of
Alabama, No. CC-2012-1890 (Madison Cty. Cir. Ct. 2013).
(See Doc. 1 at 1-2). Mr. Jackson entered a guilty
plea and received a fifty-year sentence. Mr. Jackson
challenged his conviction in the 2014 Petition. Because the
2014 Petition was pending when Mr. Jackson filed this matter,
the magistrate judge properly treated Mr. Jackson's
submission in this case as a motion to amend the 2014
Petition. See United States v. Terrell, 141
Fed.Appx. 849, 851-52 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Ching v.
United States, 298 F.3d 174, 175-77 (2d Cir. 2002));
United States v. Camejo-Rodriquez, 413 Fed.Appx.
158, 160 (11th Cir. 2001). Mr. Jackson seeks relief based on
alleged ineffective assistance of counsel.
MR. JACKSON'S OBJECTIONS
Jackson objects to the magistrate judge's analysis of the
merits of his ineffective assistance of counsel claims on
several grounds. First, he argues that the Court should
presume prejudice based on his attorney's failure to
object when, during the plea colloquy, the sentencing court
overstated the minimum sentences for the charges pending
against Mr. Jackson. (Doc. 13, pp. 1-3). The record in this
case does not provide a basis for presumed prejudice.
magistrate judge explained, to show prejudice in the context
of a guilty plea, a defendant “must show that there is
a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors,
he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on
going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S.
52, 59 (1985). It is undisputed that, during the plea
colloquy, the sentencing court misstated the mandatory
minimum sentences under Alabama law for first-degree sodomy
and first-degree sexual abuse of a child, and Mr.
Jackson's attorney did not object. As to sodomy, the
sentencing court stated the minimum sentence was 20 years.
(2014 Doc. 10-3 at 28-29; see Doc. 8 at 4). The
actual penalty range for first-degree sodomy is 10 to 99
years. Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6(a)(1), 13A-6-63.
Similarly, the sentencing court stated the minimum sentence
for first-degree sexual assault was ten years; the actual
sentencing range is between two and ten years. (Doc. 10-3 at
29); Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6(a)(2), 13A-6-69.1.
also is undisputed that the sentencing court advised Mr.
Jackson: “although I do not know what I would sentence
you to, that the sentence could range up to life” or
“effectively life.” (2014 Doc. 10-3 at 29). That
is a correct statement of Alabama law; the statutory maximum
for first-degree sodomy is 99 years. (Doc. 10, p. 10). Thus,
Mr. Jackson made the decision not to go to trial knowing that
he faced a possible lifelong sentence. Although Mr. Jackson
may have risked trial if he believed he faced no more than a
ten-year sentence for first-degree sodomy, the more serious
of the two types of charges against him, Mr. Jackson had no
reason to believe that he would face only a minimum sentence.
Mr. Jackson told the sentencing judge that he understood that
he faced a potential lifelong sentence. (2014 Doc. 10-3 at
29). Given that Mr. Jackson knew that he faced a potential
lifelong sentence, Mr. Jackson must demonstrate that there is
a reasonable probability that, but for his attorney's
failure to object to the inaccurate information concerning
the applicable minimum sentence, he would not have pleaded
guilty and instead would have gone to trial. Mr. Jackson has
not carried this burden.
second objection, Mr. Jackson restates his argument that his
attorney was ineffective in failing to make clear to him that
the terms offered in an early proposed plea agreement - terms
that included eligibility for probation or parole - did not
carry over to his blind plea of guilty the day his trial was
scheduled to begin. (Doc. 13, p. 3). As the magistrate judge
explained, the prosecution offered a plea deal including a
split sentence prior to trial, but Mr. Jackson, against the
advice of counsel, declined the offer. (Doc. 10 at 4-5, 17).
The magistrate judge correctly held that Mr. Jackson cannot
demonstrate prejudice concerning his attorney's failure
to explain to him that he would not be eligible for probation
or parole if he entered a guilty plea on the day of trial
because the sentencing judge told him just that. The
sentencing judge stated that if Mr. Jackson entered a plea of
guilty, his sentence would be “day-for-day. There is no
parole. There is no good time. There is no probation.”
(2014 Doc. 10-3 at 29). Mr. Jackson replied, “Yes,
ma'am. I understand.” (2014 Doc. 10-3 at 29). Under
these circumstances, Mr. Jackson cannot show the prejudice
required to sustain a claim for ineffective assistance of
Mr. Jackson contends that the sentencing judge was incorrect
when she stated that he was not eligible for probation, and
his attorney was ineffective because he did not object, and
he did not ask the sentencing judge to allow Mr. Jackson to
withdraw his guilty plea. This objection is not persuasive
because if the sentencing judge was mistaken, the mistake
benefits Mr. Jackson. Because Mr. Jackson entered a guilty
plea believing that he would not be eligible for probation,
he cannot demonstrate that he would have refused to plead
guilty had he known that he would be eligible for parole.
That does not make sense. Moreover, as the magistrate judge
explained, Mr. Jackson's attorney did ask the sentencing
court to allow Mr. Jackson to withdraw his guilty plea. (2014
Doc. 10-2 at 17-18). Mr. Jackson signed the motion to
withdraw guilty plea. (2014 Doc. 10-2 at 18). The sentencing
court denied the motion. (Doc. 10, p. 15). Consequently, Mr.
Jackson cannot establish prejudice.
these reasons, the Court overrules Mr. Jackson's
objections to the report and recommendation.
MOTION TO AMEND
Jackson has filed a motion to amend his habeas petition
again. (Doc. 14). Mr. Jackson contends his guilty pleas are
invalid because of trial counsel's alleged failure to
explain the elements of first-degree sodomy and first-degree
sexual abuse. The Court denies the motion because it is
futile. To enter a constitutionally valid guilty plea, a
defendant must receive “real notice of the true nature
of the charge made against him.” Henderson v.
Morgan, 426 U.S. 637, 645 (1976). Due process is
satisfied if “the record establishes that the defendant
has been informed of the elements of the offense by the time
he enters his plea.” Massey v. Warden, 733
Fed.Appx. 980, 989 (11th Cir. 2018) (citing Bradshaw v.
Stumpf, 545 U.S. 175, 183 (2005)). A defendant's
understanding of an offense may be established where, prior
to pleading guilty, the prosecution describes a factual basis
satisfying the elements of the crime. 733 Fed.Appx. at 990.
Jackson pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree sodomy
and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse committed against
a nine-year-old boy. The prosecutor stated the factual basis
of each offense before Mr. Jackson entered his guilty plea.
(2014 Doc. 10-3 at 33-39). As to the first count of sodomy,
the prosecutor stated the evidence would show that Mr.
Jackson performed oral sex on the victim. (2014 Doc. 10-3 at
33). As to the second count of sodomy, the prosecutor
explained the evidence would show that Mr. Jackson placed his
penis into the victim's rectum. (2014 Doc. 10-3 at 35).
As to the two counts of sexual abuse, the prosecutor
explained the evidence would show Mr. Jackson fondled the
victim's genitals. (2014 Doc. 10-3 at 36-38). Immediately
after hearing each of these clear descriptions of the factual
bases of the offenses, Mr. Jackson pleaded guilty to each