Monday, May 9, 2011

District abuses discretion in denying IAC hearing

United States v. Evans, No. 10-6367 (4th Cir. May 6, 2011):

Previously, the Fourth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on the issue of whether the district court abused its discretion in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, Petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to explain adequately the government's offer of a plea agreement and the risks of going to trial.

In § 2255 proceedings, “[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall . . . grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues, and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto.” 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255(b). An evidentiary hearing in open court is required when a movant presents a colorable Sixth Amendment claim showing disputed facts beyond the record and a credibility determination is necessary in order to resolve the issue.

In this case, the district court compared affidavits of counsel and petitioner, and granted summary judgment in favor of the government.  However, counsel's affidavit did not counter the allegation that he discussed the contents of the proposed plea agreement with Petitioner.  This opinion further explains that a district court may not credit an attorney's affidavit over Petitioner's affidavit.

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