Blackledge v. Allison, No. 75-1693

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
PartiesStanley BLACKLEDGE, Warden, et al., Petitioners, v. Gary Darrell ALLISON
Decision Date02 May 1977
Docket NumberNo. 75-1693

431 U.S. 63
97 S.Ct. 1621
52 L.Ed.2d 136
Stanley BLACKLEDGE, Warden, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Gary Darrell ALLISON.

No. 75-1693.
Argued Feb. 22, 1977.
Decided May 2, 1977.
Syllabus

At the arraignment of respondent, who had been indicted in North Carolina for various state criminal offenses, he entered a guilty plea to a single count of attempted safe robbery. In response to two of various form questions that under then-applicable procedures were put by the trial judge to those entering guilty pleas, respondent acknowledged that he understood that he could be imprisoned for a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life and that no one had made promises or threats to influence him to plead guilty. Without further questioning, the judge accepted the plea on an "Adjudication" form, which, inter alia, recited that respondent had pleaded guilty to attempted safe robbery "freely, understandingly and voluntarily," with full awareness of the consequences, and "without undue . . . compulsion . . . duress, (or) promise of leniency." At a sentencing hearing three days later respondent was sentenced to 17-21 years. After unsuccessfully exhausting a state collateral remedy, respondent sought a writ of habeas corpus in a Federal District Court, claiming that his guilty plea had been induced by the promise of his attorney, who presumably had consulted with the judge and Solicitor, that he would get only a 10-year sentence. He also stated that he was aware that he had been questioned by the judge before sentencing but thought that he was going to get only 10 years and had been instructed to answer the questions so that the court would accept the guilty plea. The District Court granted a motion to dismiss the petition, on the ground that the form conclusively showed that respondent had chosen to plead guilty knowingly, voluntarily, and with full awareness of the consequences. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondent's allegation of a broken promise, as amplified by the explanation that his lawyer instructed him to deny the existence of any promises, was not foreclosed by his responses to the form questions and that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing, at least in the absence of counter-affidavits conclusively proving the falsity of respondent's allegations. Held: In light of the nature of the record of the proceeding at which the guilty plea was accepted, and of the ambiguous status of the process of plea bargaining at the time the guilty plea was made, respondent's petition for a writ of habeas corpus should not have been summarily dismissed. Pp. 71-83.

Page 64

(a) Although the plea or sentencing proceeding record constitutes a formidable barrier to a collateral attack on a guilty plea, that barrier is not insurmountable, and in administering the writ of habeas corpus federal courts cannot fairly adopt a per se rule excluding all possibility that a defendant's representations at the time of his guilty plea were so much the product of such factors as misunderstanding, duress, or misrepresentation as to make that plea a constitutionally inadequate basis for imprisonment. Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473; Fontaine v. United States, 411 U.S. 213, 93 S.Ct. 1461, 36 L.Ed.2d 169. Pp. 71-75.

(b) Respondent's allegations were not so vague or conclusory as to warrant dismissal for that reason alone. He elaborated on his claim with specific factual allegations, indicating exactly what the terms of the promise were; when, where, and by whom it had been made; and the identity of a witness to its communication. Pp. 75-76.

(c) The North Carolina plea-bargaining procedure that was in effect at the time of respondent's arraignment reflected the atmosphere of secrecy that then characterized plea bargaining, whose legitimacy was not finally established until Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427 which was decided not long before respondent's arraignment. There was no transcript of the proceeding but only a standard printed form, and there is no way of knowing if the trial judge deviated from the form or whether any statements were made regarding promised sentencing concessions; nor is there any record of the sentencing hearing. The form questions did nothing to dispel a defendant's belief that any plea bargain had to be concealed. Particularly, if, as respondent alleged, he was advised by counsel to conceal any plea bargain, his denial that promises had been made have been mere courtroom ritual. Pp. 76-78.

(d) Though through such procedures as summary judgment, discovery, or expansion of the record, it may develop that a full evidentiary hearing is not required, respondent is "entitled to careful consideration and plenary processing of (his claim,) including full opportunity for presentation of the relevant facts." Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 298, 89 S.Ct. 1082, 1090, 22 L.Ed.2d 281. Pp. 80-82.

4 Cir., 533 F.2d 894, affirmed.

Richard N. League, Raleigh, N.

Page 65

C., for petitioners.

C. Frank Goldsmith, Jr., Marion, N. C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondent, Gary Darrell Allison, an inmate of a North Carolina penitentiary, petitioned a Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus. The court dismissed his petition without a hearing, and the Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that in the circumstances of this case summary dismissal was improper. We granted certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I

Allison was indicted by a North Carolina grand jury for breaking and entering, attempted safe robbery, and possession of burglary tools. At his arraignment, where he was represented by court-appointed counsel, he initially pleaded not guilty. But after learning that his codefendant planned to plead guilty, he entered a guilty plea to a single count of attempted safe robbery, for which the minimum prison sentence was 10 years and the maximum was life. N.C.Gen.Stat. § 14-89.1 (1969).

In accord with the procedure for taking guilty pleas then in effect in North Carolina, the judge in open court read from a printed form 13 questions, generally concerning the defendant's understanding of the charge, its consequences, and the voluntariness of his plea. Allison answered "yes" or "no" to each question, and the court clerk transcribed those responses on a copy of the form, which Allison signed. So far as the record shows, there was no questioning beyond this routine; no inquiry was made of either defense counsel or prosecutor. Two questions from the form are of particular relevance to the issues before us: Question No. 8 "Do you

Page 66

understand that upon your plea of guilty you could be imprisoned for as much as minimum (sic ) of 10 years to life?" to which Allison answered "Yes"; and Question No. 11 "Has the Solicitor, or your lawyer, or any policeman, law officer or anyone else made any promises or threat to you to influence you to plead guilty in this case?" to which Allison answered "No."

The trial judge then accepted the plea by signing his name at the bottom of the form under a text entitled "Adjudication," which recited the three charges for which Allison had been indicted, that he had been fully advised of his rights, was in fact guilty, and pleaded guilty to attempted safe robbery "freely, understandingly and voluntarily," with full awareness of the consequences, and "without undue . . . compulsion . . . duress, (or) promise of leniency." 1 Three days later, at a

Page 67

sentencing hearing, of which there is no record whatsoever, Allison was sentenced to 17-21 years in prison.

After unsuccessfully exhausting a state collateral remedy,

Page 68

Allison filed a pro se petition in a Federal District Court seeking a writ of habeas corpus. The petition alleged:

"(H)is guilty plea was induced by an unkept promise, and therefore was not the free and willing choice of the petitioner, and should be set aside by this Court. An unkept bargain which has induced a guilty plea is grounds for relief. Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 267 (, 92 S.Ct. 495, 501, 30 L.Ed.2d 427) (1971)." Pet. for Cert. 14.

The petition went on to explain and support this allegation as follows:

"The petitioner was led to believe and did believe, by Mr. Pickard (Allison's attorney), that he Mr. N. Glenn

Page 69

Pickard had talked the case over with the Solicitor and the Judge, and that if the petitioner would plea(d) guilty, that he would only get a 10 year sentence of penal servitude. This conversation, where the petitioner was assured that if he plea(ded) guilty, he would only get ten years was witnessed by another party other than the petitioner and counsel.

"The petitioner believing that he was only going to get a ten year active sentence, allowed himself to be pled guilty to the charge of attempted safe robbery, and was shocked by the Court with a 17-21 year sentence.

"The petitioner was promised by his Attorney, who had consulted presumably with the Judge and Solicitor, that he was only going to get a ten year sentence, and therefore because of this unkept bargain, he is entitled to relief in this Court.

"The petitioner is aware of the fact that he was questioned by the trial Judge prior to sentencing, but as he thought he was only going to get ten years, and had been instructed to answer the questions, so that the Court would accept the guilty plea, this fact does not preclude him from raising this matter especially since he was not given the promised sentence by the Court.

". . . The fact that the Judge, said that he could get more, did not affect, the belief of the petitioner, that he was only going to get a ten year sentence."

The petitioner here, Warden Blackledge, filed a motion to dismiss and attached to it the "transcript" of the plea hearing, consisting of nothing more than the printed form filled in by the clerk and signed by Allison...

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7567 practice notes
  • McWhorter v. Dunn, Case No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • January 22, 2019
    ...supporting facts to justify a decision for the petitioner if the alleged facts are proven true. See, e.g., Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7 (1977) (observing that a habeas petition must "state facts that point to a 'real possibility of constitutional error'") (quoting Advisory Com......
  • Kimball v. United States, No. 3:10-0730
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • November 19, 2012
    ...presided over the underlying criminal proceedings, the judge may rely on his own recollection of those proceedings. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 97 S.Ct. 1621, 1629 n. 4, 52 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977); Blanton v. United States, 94 F.3d 227, 235 (6th Cir. 1996). An evidentiary hearing is not ......
  • Buttolph v. Adams, 1:18-cv-2370
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • September 10, 2020
    ...subsequent collateral proceedings. Solemn declarations made in open court carry a strong presumption of verity." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977). Initially, the Superior Court noted that "[c]entral to the question of whether [a] defendant's plea was entered voluntarily and ......
  • Mata v. Sherman, Case No. 1:13-cv-01040 DAD MJS (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 22, 2016
    ...1995) (conclusory allegations unsupported by a statement of specific facts do not warrant habeas relief); see also Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7, 97 S. Ct. 1621, 52 L. Ed. 2d 136 (1977) ("the petition is expected to state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7526 cases
  • McWhorter v. Dunn, Case No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • January 22, 2019
    ...supporting facts to justify a decision for the petitioner if the alleged facts are proven true. See, e.g., Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7 (1977) (observing that a habeas petition must "state facts that point to a 'real possibility of constitutional error'") (quoting Advisory Com......
  • Kimball v. United States, No. 3:10-0730
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • November 19, 2012
    ...presided over the underlying criminal proceedings, the judge may rely on his own recollection of those proceedings. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 97 S.Ct. 1621, 1629 n. 4, 52 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977); Blanton v. United States, 94 F.3d 227, 235 (6th Cir. 1996). An evidentiary hearing is not ......
  • Buttolph v. Adams, 1:18-cv-2370
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • September 10, 2020
    ...subsequent collateral proceedings. Solemn declarations made in open court carry a strong presumption of verity." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977). Initially, the Superior Court noted that "[c]entral to the question of whether [a] defendant's plea was entered voluntarily and ......
  • Mata v. Sherman, Case No. 1:13-cv-01040 DAD MJS (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 22, 2016
    ...1995) (conclusory allegations unsupported by a statement of specific facts do not warrant habeas relief); see also Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7, 97 S. Ct. 1621, 52 L. Ed. 2d 136 (1977) ("the petition is expected to state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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