474 U.S. 52 (1985), 84-1103, Hill v. Lockhart

Docket Nº:No. 84-1103
Citation:474 U.S. 52, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203, 54 U.S.L.W. 4006
Party Name:Hill v. Lockhart
Case Date:November 18, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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474 U.S. 52 (1985)

106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203, 54 U.S.L.W. 4006

Hill

v.

Lockhart

No. 84-1103

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 18, 1985

Argued October 7, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Pursuant to a plea-bargaining agreement, petitioner pleaded guilty in an Arkansas [106 S.Ct. 367] court to charges of first-degree murder and theft of property, and the court accepted the plea, sentencing him, in accordance with the State's recommendations, to concurrent sentences of 35 years for the murder and 10 years for the theft. Petitioner later filed a federal habeas corpus petition alleging, inter alia, that his guilty plea was involuntary by reason of ineffective assistance of counsel because his court-appointed attorney had misinformed him that, if he pleaded guilty he would become eligible for parole after serving one-third of his prison sentence, whereas, under Arkansas law, petitioner, as a "second offender," was required to serve one-half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The District Court denied habeas relief without a hearing, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The District Court did not err in declining to hold a hearing on petitioner's claim. Pp. 56-60.

(a) Where a defendant enters a guilty plea upon counsel's advice, the voluntariness of the plea depends on whether the advice was within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases. The two-part standard adopted in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, for evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel -- requiring that the defendant show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different -- applies to guilty plea challenges based on ineffective assistance of counsel. In order to satisfy the second, or "prejudice," requirement, the 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. Pp. 56-60.

(b) In the present case, it is unnecessary to determine whether there may be circumstances under which erroneous advice by counsel as to parole eligibility may be deemed constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel, because petitioner's allegations were insufficient to satisfy the "prejudice" requirement. He did not allege in his habeas petition that, had counsel correctly informed him about his parole eligibility date,

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he would have pleaded not guilty and insisted on going to trial. Nor did he allege any special circumstances that might support the conclusion that he placed particular emphasis on his parole eligibility in deciding whether to plead guilty. P. 60.

764 F.2d 1279, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 60.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner William Lloyd Hill pleaded guilty in the Arkansas trial court to charges of first-degree murder and theft of property. More than two years later, he sought federal habeas relief on the ground that his court-appointed attorney had failed to advise him that, as a second offender, he was required to serve one-half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas denied relief without a hearing, and the en banc Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed by an equally divided court. We granted certiorari because of the difference between the result reached in the present case and that reached by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Strader v. Garrison, 611 F.2d 61 (1979). 470 U.S. 1049 (1985). [106 S.Ct. 368] We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit because we conclude that petitioner failed to allege the kind of prejudice from the allegedly incompetent advice of counsel that would have entitled him to a hearing.

Under Arkansas law, the murder charge to which petitioner pleaded guilty carried a potential sentence of 5 to 50

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years or life in prison, along with a fine of up to $15,000. Ark.Stat.Ann. §§ 41-1502(3), 41-901(1)(a), 41-1101(1)(a) (1977). Petitioner's court-appointed attorney negotiated a plea agreement pursuant to which the State, in return for petitioner's plea of guilty to both the murder and theft charges, agreed to recommend that the trial judge impose concurrent prison sentences of 35 years for the murder and 10 years for the theft. Petitioner signed a written "plea statement" indicating that he understood the charges against him and the consequences of pleading guilty, that his plea had not been induced "by any force, threat, or promise" apart from the plea agreement itself, that he realized that the trial judge was not bound by the plea agreement and retained the sole "power of sentence," and that he had discussed the plea agreement with his attorney and was satisfied with his attorney's advice. The last two lines of the "plea statement," just above petitioner's signature, read:

I am aware of everything in this document. I fully understand what my rights are, and I voluntarily plead guilty because I am guilty as charged.

Petitioner appeared before the trial judge at the plea hearing, recounted the events that gave rise to the charges against him, affirmed that he had signed and understood the written "plea statement," reiterated that no "threats or promises" had been made to him other than the plea agreement itself, and entered a plea of guilty to both charges. The trial judge accepted the guilty plea and sentenced petitioner in accordance with the...

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