United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.
Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by state prisoner Jammie Lee Prescott ("Petitioner"). For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied and a certificate of appealability is denied.
The following is a recitation of only those facts that are relevant to provide the necessary background for the resolution Petitioner's application for habeas relief. On November 7, 2003, Petitioner appeared before the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County and pleaded guilty to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, four counts of indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. Keith Clelland, Esq., represented Petitioner. On January 8, 2008, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Petitioner's judgment of sentence. (CP Dkt. No. 52, Commonwealth v. Prescott, No. 548 WDA 2007, slip op. (Pa.Super. Jan. 8, 2008)).
On or around January 1, 2009, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for collateral relief pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S. § 9541 et seq. (CP Dkt. No. 53). The court appointed William J. Hathaway, Esquire, to represent him and counsel filed a supplement to the PCRA motion. (CP Dkt. No. 55).
The U.S. Supreme Court has strictly limited the circumstances under which a guilty plea may be attacked on collateral review, noting: "It is well settled that a voluntary and intelligent plea of guilt made by an accused person, who has been advised by competent counsel, may not be collaterally attacked." Bousley v. United States , 523 U.S. 614, 621 (1998) (quoting Mabry v. Johnson , 467 U.S. 504, 508 (1984)). In an attempt to get around the limitation his guilty plea has on his availability to receive relief on collateral review, Petitioner contended in the PCRA proceeding that his plea was not knowingly and intelligently entered because his trial counsel, Clelland, was ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. He contended that counsel: (1) threatened him to enter the plea by telling him that if he did not do so he would get an 80-year prison sentence; and (2) failed to challenge the admissibility of the videotaped statements he made to the police on the grounds that "his statements were the product of his mental and emotional condition then existing and that he possessed certain medical impairments and mental illness, which impacted on the ability to accept the statement as voluntary and intelligent[.]" Petitioner also claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to "pull said plea agreement [when] the Petitioner stat[ed] to counsel that he wanted to proceed to trial." (SCR No. 55).
Ineffective assistance claims are governed by the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under Strickland, a petitioner must show that his counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. 466 U.S. at 688. The law presumes that counsel was effective. Id. at 689. Strickland also requires that a petitioner demonstrate that he was prejudiced by his counsel's alleged deficient performance. This requires a showing "that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of [his trial] proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694. See also Brown v. Wenerowicz , 663 F.3d 619, 630 (3d Cir. 2011).
On April 7, 2009, the PCRA court entered an order which denied Petitioner's claims. It held:
[T]he Defendant's plea was voluntarily entered ( see Plea Colloquy, Commonwealth v. Pollard , 832 A.2d 517 (Pa.Super. 2003)); the Commonwealth would be prejudiced if the Defendant would be allowed to withdraw the plea (Commonwealth ready for scheduled trial with expert witnesses, 12 year old victim); the Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance is contradicted by the record, and there is no evidence the Defendant's mental and emotional condition would have impacted the Defendant's ability to enter a plea or affect any pre-trial proceedings, nor that counsel was aware of such. ( See Defendant's confession, DNA evidence).
(CP Dkt. No. 58).
Petitioner, through Hathaway, filed an appeal with the Superior Court. On August 4, 2010, the Superior Court issued a Memorandum affirming the PCRA court's decision. (CP Dkt. No. 65, Commonwealth v. Prescott, No. 774 WDA 2009, slip op. (Pa.Super. Aug. 4 2010)). It agreed with the PCRA court that Petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance was contradicted by the record and that there was no evidence that he had any mental or emotional condition that interfered with his ability to enter a plea that was knowing, voluntarily, and intelligent. (CP Dkt. No. 65, Commonwealth v. Prescott, No. 774 WDA 2009, slip op. at 3-4 (Pa.Super.Ct. Aug. 4 2010)). The Superior Court also added:
Appellant contends that counsel, motivated by Appellant's videotape[d] inculpatory statements to police, threatened that he would receive an eighty year sentence if he did not enter the plea, and yet failed to investigate whether these statements were the result of medical impairments and mental illness, " which adversely affected his ability to enter a voluntary plea. (Appellant's Brief at 8).
We first note that at his plea hearing Appellant was apprised by the court that "if the judge were to make all of the sentences consecutive, which he is allowed to do, that you would face up to $135, 000 in fines, and 80 years [of] incarceration, " 12 ½ years of which would be mandatory minimums. (N.T. Plea, 11/1/03, 8). Thus counsel's "threats" were merely ...