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Giles v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 17, 2018

REGINALD GILES, Prisoner Identification No. 3334399, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND and WARDEN PHILLIP MORGAN, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Reginald Giles, who is currently confined at the Maryland Correctional Training Center, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 24, 2010, Giles was charged in the Circuit Court for Caroline County, Maryland (“the circuit court”) with possession with intent to distribute narcotics, possession of narcotics, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The case, State v. Giles, No. K-10-8374 (Cir. Ct. Caroline Cty. 2010) (“Case 8374”), available at http://casesearch.courts.state. md.us/casesearch/, was scheduled for trial on December 14, 2010. The Assistant State's Attorney (“ASA”) and defense counsel engaged in plea negotiations prior to the trial date. On December 14, believing that a plea agreement had been reached, the ASA released the prosecution's witnesses from appearing on that date. When Giles proved unwilling to plead guilty, the ASA was not prepared to proceed to trial and requested a continuance. The trial judge, who was a visiting judge, stated that he did not have the authority to grant a continuance. The Administrative Judge, who did have the necessary authority, was unavailable. The trial judge then noted that if the State entered a nolle prosequi, it could still re-indict Giles on the same charges. Based on this suggestion, the State entered a nolle prosequi in Case 8374.

         On February 9, 2011, Giles was indicted on the same charges in a new case, State v. Giles, No. K-11-8607 (Cir. Ct. Caroline Cty. 2011) (“Case 8607”), available at http://casesearch. courts.state.md.us/casesearch/. Defense counsel moved to dismiss the charges on the basis that Giles's right to a speedy trial had been denied. The motion to dismiss was argued and denied on August 10, 2011. On August 17, 2011, following a jury trial, Giles was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine. Giles was acquitted of possession of drug paraphernalia. On December 6, 2011, Giles was sentenced to the 10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.

         Giles noted a timely appeal of his conviction on December 16, 2011. However, at a March 21, 2012 status conference in a separate felony narcotics case, State v. Giles, No. K-11-8919 (Cir. Ct. Caroline Cty. 2012) (“Case 8919”), available at http://casesearch.courts.state. md.us/casesearch/, Giles agreed to withdraw his appeal in Case 8607 in exchange for the State dropping the charges in Case 8919. The appeal was dismissed on April 24, 2012, and the State entered a nolle prosequi in Case 8919 on or about April 25, 2012.

         On June 20, 2012, Giles filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief in the Circuit Court for Caroline County, raising two claims of error: (1) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel; and (2) that the trial court erred in denying his Motion to Dismiss in Case 8607. After a December 21, 2012 hearing, at which Giles testified, the state post-conviction court denied the petition on March 8, 2013. Giles filed an Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of Post-Conviction Relief with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which was denied on December 15, 2014.

         Giles filed a timely federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 2011 convictions and sentence in Case 8607. Although the Court received the Petition on January 28, 2015, it is dated January 15, 2015 and is deemed filed on that date. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988) (holding that pleadings filed by prisoners are deemed filed on the date the prisoner relinquishes control over the documents).

         DISCUSSION

         Giles raises three grounds for relief in this Court. First, he asserts that he was coerced into dropping his direct appeal in Case 8607 by the State's offer to drop the indictment in Case 8919. Second, he claims that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel in pursuing the Motion to Dismiss Case 8607. Third, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his Motion to Dismiss Case 8607.

         I. Dismissal of Direct Appeal

         Giles claims that he was improperly coerced or induced into dropping his appeal in Case 8607 by the State's offer to dismiss the charges in Case 8919. He alleges that the prosecutor and defense counsel told him that if he “pursued a direct appeal on case 8607, ” he would receive “no less than a 40 year sentence when, not ‘if, '” he was found guilty in Case 8919. Pet. at 7, ECF No. 1. According to Giles, the plea deal was “an offer I couldn't refuse, ” such that “[t]here was nothing ‘voluntary' about the plea.” Reply at 6, ECF No. 13.

         Respondents assert that Giles has failed to specify what particular federal constitutional right or law was violated by the trial court's action. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(a) (2012) (stating that federal courts may consider on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus only claims that the petitioner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States”). Although his argument rests primarily on a state case, Giles asserts that the alleged coercion deprived him of his rights to due process and equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Reading the pro se Petition liberally, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court construes the claim as raising a due process violation. The Court therefore finds that the allegation that Giles was coerced into withdrawing his direct appeal in Case 8607 asserts a cognizable claim for relief.

         As noted above, on December 16, 2012, Giles filed a timely notice of appeal in Case 8607. He subsequently filed a motion to dismiss his appeal pursuant to an agreement with the State to dismiss the charges in Case 8919. In agreeing to this arrangement, Giles was aware that if he was convicted in Case 8919, he would potentially face a 40-year sentence as a subsequent offender.

         Although this issue was not raised as a separate claim in the state post-conviction proceedings, the post-conviction court directly addressed the allegation of improper coercion. The court found that:

Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily chose not to continue with the appeal in order to obtain the plea agreement from the State in Criminal No. K-11-8919. While Petitioner testified that he was “induced” to withdraw the appeal, this Court views the plea agreement as nothing short of a beneficial, bargained-for exchange. The Court does not find petitioner's assertion of improper inducement to be credible.

State Post-Conviction Op. at 10-11, Answer Ex. 10, ECF No. 12-10. Further, the court noted that:

[T]he record clearly indicates that the purpose for withdrawing the appeal was for petitioner to maintain his current ten-year sentence from the conviction in Criminal No. K-11-8607 and avoid the possible forty-year sentence as a subsequent offender in case Criminal No. K-11-8919. The State followed through with their part of the bargain and entered the charges in the pending case as nolle prosequi and, in exchange, petitioner withdrew his appeal as agreed.

Id. at 11.

         The state post-conviction court's finding that there was no improper inducement is supported by the underlying record. On March 21, 2012, the date on which the circuit court was informed of the agreement, the court presided over a voir dire examination of Giles by defense counsel regarding his ...


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