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Baker v. Collins

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

December 23, 2019

JOHNNY C. BAKER, Petitioner,
v.
EMMA COLLINS, Warden, Pickaway Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          Walter H. Rice District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          Michael R. Merz United States Magistrate Judge.

         This habeas corpus case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by Petitioner Johnny C. Baker with the assistance of counsel, is before the Court for decision on the Petition (ECF No. 1), the State Court Record (ECF No. 5), and the Return of Writ (ECF No. 6). Petitioner has not filed a reply and the deadline for doing so has expired.

         Litigation History

         Baker was indicted by the Montgomery County grand jury on one count of felonious assault for the infliction of serious harm, one count of domestic violence, and one count of kidnapping; the first count had a firearm specification. After plea negotiations, he agreed to plead guilty to the kidnapping charge in return for dismissal of the other counts and an agreed sentence of three years. At the plea colloquy, the trial judge indicated he was willing to impose the agreed sentence, provided that his prior record was as had been represented, that he cooperate in the presentence investigation, that he appear when required, and that he commit no new offenses prior to sentencing. State v. Baker, 2018-Ohio-3925 ¶ 3, citing Plea Tr. at 13(2nd Dist. Sep. 28, 2018), appellate jurisdiction declined, 2019-Ohio-345 (2019).

         Although he had agreed to a three-year sentence, at the time initially set for sentencing Baker claimed he believed he was going to receive three years of community control and was not sure whether he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea in light of his misunderstanding. Id. at ¶ 5. Judge Blaine allowed him a one-week continuance to decide what he wanted to do. Upon reconvening, Baker said he did not want to withdraw his plea, but also did not want to be bound to the three years, but wanted to be able to argue for community control. Id. at ¶ 6. After hearing options of proceeding with the three-year agreed sentence, withdrawing the guilty plea, or arguing for a sentence within the range allowed by statute of probation up to eleven years imprisonment, he elected the third option, against the advice of counsel. Id.

         Considering itself released from its agreement, the State argued for the maximum eleven-year term. Having considered the seriousness of the injuries inflicted and Baker's substantial prior criminal history, Judge Blaine imposed a five-year term of imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 7. Baker appealed, but the Second District Court of Appeals affirmed in a divided opinion. As noted above, the Supreme Court of Ohio declined to exercise appellate review. Baker then timely filed his Petition in this Court.

         Although he labels it as a single constitutional claim, Petitioner pleads two grounds for relief:

A trial court judge becomes impermissibly involved in plea negotiations when that involvement impacts the voluntariness of a defendant's plea and such judicial involvement renders a guilty plea involuntary under United States v. Davila, 596 U.S. 597, 133 S.Ct. 2139, 186 L.Ed.2d 139 (2013) and violated the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
When a trial court binds itself to an agreed sentence in a plea negotiation, fundamental fairness does not allow a judge to impose a greater sentence than was agreed to without a material change in the facts, in violation of the Fifth, Eight [sic], and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

(Petition, ECF No. 1, PageID 2).

         Analysis

         Ground One: Impermissible Trial Judge Involvement in Plea Negotiations

         In his First Ground for Relief, Barker argues that Judge Blaine improperly became involved in plea negotiations, rendering the guilty plea void because it was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary (Petition, ECF No. 1, PageID 7-9). He relies on United States v. Davila, 569 U.S. 597[1](2013), ...


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