506 U.S. 20 (1992), 91-719, Parke v. Raley

Docket Nº:No. 91-719
Citation:506 U.S. 20, 113 S.Ct. 517, 121 L.Ed.2d 391, 61 U.S.L.W. 4007
Party Name:Parke v. Raley
Case Date:December 01, 1992
Court:United States Supreme Court

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506 U.S. 20 (1992)

113 S.Ct. 517, 121 L.Ed.2d 391, 61 U.S.L.W. 4007




No. 91-719

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 1, 1992

Argued Oct. 5, 1992




In 1986, respondent Raley was charged with robbery and with being a persistent felony offender under a Kentucky statute that enhances sentences for repeat felons. He moved to suppress the 1979 and 1981 guilty pleas that formed the basis for the latter charge, claiming that they were invalid because the records contained no transcripts of the proceedings, and hence did not affirmatively show, as required by Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, that the pleas were knowing and voluntary. Under the state procedures governing the hearing on his motion, the ultimate burden of persuasion rested with the government, but a presumption of regularity attached to the judgments once the Commonwealth proved their existence, and the burden then shifted to Raley to produce evidence of their invalidity. As to the 1981 plea, Raley testified that, among other things, he signed a form specifying the charges to which he agreed to plead guilty and the judge at least advised him of his right to a jury trial. His suppression motion was denied, he was convicted, and he appealed. The Kentucky Court of Appeals found that Raley was fully informed of his rights in 1979, and inferred that he remained aware of them in 1981. Raley then filed a federal habeas petition. The District Court rejected his argument that the state courts had erred in shifting the burden of production to him, but the Court of Appeals reversed as to the 1981 plea, holding, inter alia, that, where no transcript is available, the prosecution has the entire burden of establishing a plea's validity by clear and convincing evidence and no presumption of regularity attaches to the prior judgment.


1. Kentucky's burden-of-proof scheme is permissible under the Due Process Clause. Pp. 26-35.

(a) "Tolerance for a spectrum of state procedures dealing with [recidivism] is especially appropriate" given the high rate of recidivism and the diversity of approaches that States have developed for addressing it. Spencer v. Texas, 385 U.S. 554, 566. Pp. 26-28.

(b) The deeply rooted presumption of regularity that attaches to final judgments would be improperly ignored if the presumption of invalidity applied in Boykin to cases on direct review were to be imported to recidivism proceedings, in which final judgments are collaterally attacked.

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In the absence of an allegation of government misconduct, it cannot be presumed from the mere unavailability of a transcript on collateral review that a defendant was not advised of his rights. Burgett v. Texas, 389 U.S. 109, distinguished. The presumption of regularity makes it appropriate to assign a proof burden to the defendant even when a collateral attack rests on constitutional grounds. And the difficulty of proving the invalidity of convictions entered many years ago does not make it fundamentally unfair to place a burden of production on the defendant, since the government may not have superior access to evidence. Nor is Raley's position supported by the state courts' historical treatment [113 S.Ct. 519] of defendants in recidivism proceedings, the wide range of contemporary state practices regarding the allocation of the proof burden, or interpretations of analogous federal laws, see, e.g., United States v. Gallman, 907 F.2d 639, 643-645. Pp. 523-526. Pp. 28-34.

(c) Due process does not require the Commonwealth to prove the validity of a prior conviction by clear and convincing extra-record evidence. Even if Boykin had addressed the question of measure of proof, it would not necessarily follow that the same standard should apply in recidivism proceedings. Given the difficulties of proof for both sides, it is not fundamentally unfair to require something less than clear and convincing evidence when the government is assigned the burden of persuasion. There is no historical tradition setting the standard at this particular level, and contemporary practice is far from uniform. Pp. 34-35.

2. The Kentucky courts properly concluded that Raley's 1981 guilty plea was valid. Their factual determinations are entitled to the presumption of correctness accorded state court factual findings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 431-432. The Kentucky Court of Appeals fairly inferred from Raley's 1979 experience that he understood the consequences of his 1981 plea. See, e.g., id. at 437. That, combined with his admission that he understood the charges against him and his self-serving testimony that he could not remember whether the trial judge advised him of other rights, satisfied every court that has considered the issue that the government carried its burden of persuasion under the Kentucky scheme. It cannot be said that this was error. Pp. 35-37.

945 F.2d 137 (CA6 1991), reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, STEVENS, SCALIA, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 37.

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O'CONNOR, J., lead opinion

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

Kentucky's "Persistent felony offender sentencing" statute, Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 532.080 (Michie 1990), provides mandatory minimum sentences for repeat felons. Under Kentucky law, a defendant charged as a persistent felony offender may challenge prior convictions that form the basis of the charge on the ground that they are invalid. Respondent, who was indicted under the statute, claimed that two convictions offered against him were invalid under Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969). The trial court, after a hearing, rejected this claim, and respondent was convicted and sentenced as a persistent felony offender. After exhausting his state remedies, respondent petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The District Court denied relief, but the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordered that the writ conditionally issue, concluding that the trial court proceedings were constitutionally infirm. As it comes to this Court, the question presented is whether Kentucky's procedure for determining a prior conviction's validity under Boykin violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth

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Amendment because it does not require the government to carry the entire burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence when a transcript of the prior plea proceeding is unavailable.


In May, 1986, the Commonwealth charged respondent Ricky Harold Raley with robbery and with being a persistent felony offender in the first degree.[1] The latter charge was based on two burglaries to which respondent had pleaded guilty in November, 1979, and October, 1981. Respondent never appealed his convictions for those crimes. He nevertheless moved to suppress them in the persistent felony offender proceeding, arguing that they were invalid under Boykin because the records did not contain transcripts of the plea proceedings, and hence did not affirmatively show that respondent's guilty pleas were knowing and voluntary.

The trial court held a hearing according to procedures set forth in Commonwealth v. Gadd, 665 S.W.2d 915 (Ky.1984), and Dunn v. Commonwealth, 703 S.W.2d 874 (Ky.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 832 (1986). In Gadd, the Supreme Court of Kentucky observed that the persistent felony offender statute requires that the prosecution prove only the fact of a previous conviction beyond a reasonable doubt; the Commonwealth need not also show that the conviction was validly obtained. 665 S.W.2d at 917. But, citing Burgett v. Texas, 389 U.S. 109 (1967), the court also held that defendants

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must be able to attack a prior conviction's invalidity. Ibid. Dunn v. Commonwealth clarified the procedures to be followed. When a defendant challenges a previous conviction through a suppression motion, the Commonwealth must prove the existence of the judgment on which it intends to rely. Once this is done, a presumption of regularity attaches, and the burden shifts to the defendant to produce evidence that his rights were infringed or some procedural irregularity occurred in the earlier proceeding. If the defendant refutes the presumption of regularity, the burden shifts back to the government affirmatively to show that the underlying judgment was entered in a manner that did, in fact, protect the defendant's rights. 703 S.W.2d at 876.

After the prosecution filed certified copies of the prior judgments of conviction for burglary, both sides presented evidence about the earlier plea proceedings. Respondent testified that he had an eleventh grade education, that he read adequately, that he was not intoxicated or otherwise mentally impaired when he entered the challenged pleas, and that he was represented by counsel on both occasions. He remembered the trial judge in each case asking him whether his plea was voluntary, but he said he could not remember whether he was specifically told about the rights he waived by pleading guilty. The government's evidence showed that, in the 1979 proceeding, respondent signed (though he later claimed not to have read) a "Plea of Guilty" form, which stated that he understood the charges against him, the maximum punishment he faced, his constitutional rights, and that a guilty plea waived those rights. The attorney who represented respondent in the first case verified his own signature on another part of the form indicating that he had fully explained respondent's rights to him. As to the 1981 plea, respondent acknowledged...

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