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Palmer v. State

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

January 22, 2014

JAMES PALMER, Petitioner
v.
STATE OF MAINE Respondent

ORDER ON PETITION FOR POST -CONVICTION REVIEW

Nancy Mills, Justice, Superior Court.

On 8/20/10, the petitioner pleaded guilty in CUMCD-CR-10-1630 to two charges of class A robbery. The petitioner received a sentence of twenty years with all but seven years suspended and four years of probation on each charge, to be served concurrently.[1]He also pleaded guilty to trafficking in dangerous knives, violation of condition of release (CUMCD-CR-10-1069), forgery, violation of condition of release (CUMCD-CR-10-2184), and violation of condition of release (CUMCD-CR-10-4058) and received sentences to be served concurrently to the sentences on the robbery charges. He pleaded to burglary and cruelty to animals charges in York County and received sentences to be served concurrently to the sentences on the Cumberland County charges.

In his petition for post-conviction review, the petitioner alleges the following:

1. he did not receive the promised good time agreed to at his sentencing hearing;
2. he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney did not present evidence, witnesses, and mitigating factors at sentencing and did not file an appeal;
3. he received an excessive sentence; and
4. he was under extreme duress, did not understand what was happening at the sentencing proceeding, and was coerced by the threat of a twenty-year prison term.

For the following reasons, the petition is denied.

FINDINGS OF FACT

The petitioner met his trial attorney in March 2010 while the petitioner was incarcerated. He did not expect to "get off" because he was guilty of the charges and just wanted to "get his sentence." He believed the mitigating factors in his case included his admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility and the fact that the crime spree resulted from his drug addiction.

He met with his trial attorney again but alleged they never discussed the discovery. He alleged also his trial attorney did not adequately investigate the case. On cross-examination at the hearing on the petition for post-conviction review, the petitioner admitted he had received the discovery and reviewed it several times. He had questions but did not bring them to the attention of his trial attorney. The trial attorney discussed the discovery with the petitioner and recalled the petitioner had a difficult time discussing the evidence.

He also met with his trial attorney at court. The trial attorney had negotiated a plea agreement of twenty years with all but six years suspended. The petitioner rejected that offer because he concluded it was not a "good deal." His trial attorney did not believe she would be able to obtain an offer much more favorable than the first offer. The trial attorney had discussed the petitioner's working with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Both the petitioner and the MDEA were willing to cooperate. The prosecutor objected and would not agree to allow the petitioner to be released on bail to work with the MDEA.

The attorneys conferenced the case with a justice regarding an appropriate sentence. After hearing the facts of the two robberies, the justice stated that the sentences could be imposed to be served consecutively and he would reject any plea agreement that did not include a sentence of eight years to be served initially. Because the justice would not accept the plea agreement of twenty years with all but six years suspended, the prosecutor offered a second plea agreement.[2] The trial attorney asked the prosecutor to agree to the original offer but he refused. The trial attorney also tried to schedule the case when the conferencing justice was not presiding; a different judge conducted the Rule 11 proceeding.

The trial attorney believed the second offer was a good offer, as did the trial attorney for the co-defendant. The facts of the two robberies were difficult for the defense. The crimes involved substantial victim impact. (8/20/10 Tr. 10-13; 18-19.) The petitioner confessed to the crimes after Miranda warnings were given. The plea agreement was not premised on both ...


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