467 U.S. 504 (1984), 83-328, Mabry v. Johnson
|Docket Nº:||No. 83-328|
|Citation:||467 U.S. 504, 104 S.Ct. 2543, 81 L.Ed.2d 437|
|Party Name:||Mabry v. Johnson|
|Case Date:||June 11, 1984|
|Court:||United States Supreme Court|
Argued April 16, 1984
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
After respondent was convicted in an Arkansas state court on charges of burglary, assault, and murder, the Arkansas Supreme Court set aside the murder conviction, and plea negotiations ensued. A deputy prosecutor proposed to respondent's attorney that, in exchange for a guilty plea to a charge of accessory after a felony murder, the prosecutor would recommend a 21-year sentence to be served concurrently with the concurrent burglary and assault sentences. However, when defense counsel called the prosecutor three days later and communicated respondent's acceptance of the offer, the prosecutor told counsel that a mistake had been made, and withdrew the offer. He proposed instead that, in exchange for a guilty plea, he would recommend a 21-year sentence to be served consecutively to the other sentences. Respondent rejected the new offer, but after a mistrial was declared, he ultimately accepted the prosecutor's second offer, and the trial judge imposed a 21-year sentence to be served consecutively to the previous sentences. After exhausting state remedies, respondent sought habeas corpus relief [104 S.Ct. 2545] in Federal District Court with respect to his guilty plea. The court dismissed the petition, holding that respondent had understood the consequences of his guilty plea, that he had received effective assistance of counsel, and that, because it was not established that he had detrimentally relied on the prosecutor's first proposed plea agreement, respondent had no right to enforce it. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that "fairness" precluded the prosecution's withdrawal of the plea proposal once accepted by respondent.
Held: Respondent's acceptance of the prosecutor's first proposed plea bargain did not create a constitutional right to have the bargain specifically enforced, and he may not successfully attack his subsequent guilty plea. Plea agreements are consistent with the requirements that guilty pleas be made voluntarily and intelligently. If a defendant was not fairly apprised of its consequences, his guilty plea can be challenged under the Due Process Clause. And when the prosecution breaches its promise with respect to an executed plea agreement, the defendant pleads guilty on a false premise, and hence his conviction cannot stand. However,
respondent's plea was in no sense induced by the prosecutor's withdrawn offer, and it rested on no unfulfilled promise; he knew the prosecution would recommend a 21-year consecutive sentence. Thus, because it did not impair the voluntariness or intelligence of his guilty plea, respondent's inability to enforce the prosecutor's first offer is without constitutional significance. Neither is the question whether the prosecutor was negligent or otherwise culpable in first making and then withdrawing his offer relevant. Cf. Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257. Pp. 507-511.
707 F.2d 323, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
STEVENS, J., lead opinion
JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether a defendant's acceptance of a prosecutor's proposed plea bargain creates a constitutional right to have the bargain specifically enforced.
In the late evening of May 22, 1970, three members of a family returned home to find a burglary in progress. Shots were exchanged resulting in the daughter's death and the wounding of the father and respondent -- one of the burglars. Respondent was tried and convicted on three charges: burglary, assault, and murder. The murder conviction was set aside by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Johnson v. State, 252 Ark. 1113, 482 S.W.2d 600 (1972). Thereafter, plea negotiations ensued.
At the time of the negotiations, respondent was serving his concurrent 21- and 12-year sentences on the burglary and assault convictions. On Friday, October 27, 1972, a deputy
prosecutor proposed to respondent's attorney that, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge of accessory after a felony murder, the prosecutor would recommend a sentence of 21 years to be served concurrently with the burglary and assault sentences. On the following day, counsel communicated the offer to respondent, who agreed to accept it. On the next Monday, the lawyer called the prosecutor "and communicated [respondent's] acceptance of the offer." App. 10. The prosecutor then told counsel that a mistake had been made, and withdrew the offer. He proposed instead that, in exchange for a guilty plea, he would recommend a sentence of 21 years, to be served consecutively to respondent's other sentences.
Respondent rejected the new offer and elected to stand trial. On the second day of trial, the judge declared a [104 S.Ct. 2546] mistrial, and plea negotiations resumed, ultimately resulting in respondent's acceptance of the prosecutor's second offer. In accordance with the plea bargain, the state trial judge imposed a 21-year sentence to be served consecutively to the previous sentences.
After exhausting his state remedies, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.1 The District Court dismissed the petition, finding that respondent had understood the consequences of his guilty plea, that he had received the effective assistance of counsel, and that, because the evidence did not establish that respondent had detrimentally relied on the prosecutor's first proposed plea agreement, respondent had no right to enforce it. The Court of Appeals reversed, 707 F.2d 323 (CA8 1983), over Judge John R. Gibson's dissent. The majority concluded that "fairness" precluded the prosecution's withdrawal of a plea proposal once accepted by respondent. Because of a
conflict in the Circuits,2 coupled with our concern that an important constitutional question had been wrongly decided, we granted certiorari, 464 U.S. 1017 (1983). We now reverse.3
Respondent can obtain federal habeas corpus relief only if his custody is in violation of the Federal Constitution.4 A plea bargain, standing alone, is without constitutional significance; in itself, it is a mere executory agreement which, until embodied in the judgment of a court, does not deprive an accused of liberty or any other constitutionally protected interest.5 It is the ensuing guilty plea that implicates the
Constitution. Only after respondent pleaded guilty was he convicted, and it is that conviction which gave rise to the deprivation of respondent's liberty at issue here.6
It is well settled that a voluntary and intelligent plea of guilty made by an accused person, who has been advised by [104 S.Ct. 2547] competent counsel, may not be collaterally attacked.7 It is also well settled that plea agreements are consistent with the requirements of voluntariness and intelligence -- because each side may obtain advantages when a guilty plea is exchanged for sentencing concessions, the agreement is no less voluntary than any other bargained-for exchange.8 It is only
when the consensual character of the plea is called into question that the validity of a guilty plea may be impaired. In Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742 (1970), we stated the applicable standard:
[A] plea of guilty entered by one fully aware of the direct consequences, including the actual value of any commitments made to him by the court, prosecutor, or his own counsel, must stand unless induced by threats (or promises to discontinue improper harassment), misrepresentation (including...
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