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TORRES MARTINEZ v. UNITED STATES

April 23, 1976

William Torres MARTINEZ, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STERN

 William Torres Martinez and a co-defendant were charged in a one-count indictment with the knowing possession of goods stolen from an interstate shipment, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, § 659. On the day of trial, after a jury panel had been summoned to the courtroom, Martinez notified the Court that he wished to retract his previous plea of not guilty. *fn1" At all times since his arraignment Martinez was represented by retained counsel. Before accepting the proffered guilty plea, this Court conducted an extensive Rule 11 proceeding. *fn2" Martinez, his attorney, and the prosecutor each responded to the inquiries of the Court. Their answers, if true, establish the voluntary and knowing nature of the plea of guilty, and negate the possibility that any sentence bargain was either struck in fact or communicated to the defendant by anyone. Martinez was told by the Court that if his plea of guilty were accepted, the Court could impose any sentence authorized by law, up to and including imprisonment for ten years and a $5,000 fine. After inquiry of all parties, after the Court itself informed the defendant that no bargain or arrangement had been made with the Court, and after the defendant again acknowledged the absence of any such inducement, the Court accepted the proffered plea. (Tr. 7/8/75 at 13). On September 22, 1975, this Court imposed a sentence of five years' imprisonment. *fn3"

 In Moorhead v. United States, 456 F.2d 992 (3rd Cir. 1972), the Court dealt with a similar assertion by a defendant:

 
In summary he [the defendant] alleges that he was assured by his attorneys that there was a "proposition" that if he pleaded guilty he would get no more than a suspended sentence or full probation, that this "proposition" was later changed to a "light sentence," that he was advised by his attorneys to respond affirmatively when asked by the court if his plea was being made voluntarily, that he is in fact innocent and has never admitted his guilt other than in open court.
 
Needless to say, the records of the court reflect no such "proposition." Moreover neither of [the defendant's] § 2255 petitions alleges that Judge Clary or Judge Christian or the prosecuting authorities were parties to the "proposition." Rather the contention seems to be that his attorneys, perhaps falsely, assured him there was a "proposition" and thereby induced him to enter a guilty plea to a charge of which in fact he was not guilty.

 456 F.2d, at 994.

 Although the Rule 11 proceeding in Moorhead complied with the standards then applicable, id., at 993, no explicit inquiry was conducted concerning the existence of any plea bargaining. The defendant was not asked and did not disclaim the existence of such a bargain or promise at the time of his plea. Moreover, the pre-sentence investigation conducted later contained statements attributed to the defendant which were inconsistent with guilt. Under these circumstances, the Court of Appeals held that a hearing was required on the allegations of the petition:

 
Certainly there is nothing in the files and records of the case which suggests the possibility of relief. But the motions allege matters outside the record which, if true, cast serious doubt upon the voluntariness of the guilty plea. . . .
 
We can exclude the possibility that the court was a party to any arrangement since Judge Christian would in any event have known of it. But none of the other possibilities are conclusively negated by the files and records of the case. They depend upon matters outside the record.

 Id., at 995 (Emphasis supplied). It is the holding of this Court that Moorhead does not govern the case at bar. The files and records of the instant case establish that petitioner is entitled to no relief.

 Moorhead was decided prior to the implementation of significant changes in plea retraction proceedings. The importance of procedural compliance with Rule 11, F.R.Crim.P., has long been recognized. *fn6" Such compliance is essential in order to serve the dual functions of the hearing: to detect and to reject involuntary and unknowing guilty pleas, and to produce a record which will sustain the voluntary and knowing plea against frivolous post-conviction attack. *fn7" In order to serve these two ends the scope of inquiry required of the District Judge at the Rule 11 hearing has been considerably expanded. The Court of Appeals for this Circuit has echoed the disquiet of many observers when confronted with perfunctory and often misleading plea retraction proceedings. *fn8" The mere declaration by a defendant that the proffered plea of guilty is voluntary can no longer suffice:

 
We agree that an "[Examination] of the defendant alone will not always bring out into the open a promise that has induced his guilty plea. It is well known that a defendant will sometimes deny the existence of a bargain that has in fact occurred, . . . out of fear that a truthful response would jeopardize the bargain." Walters v. Harris, 460 F.2d 988, 993 (4th Cir. 1972).

 United States ex rel. Culbreath v. Rundle, 466 F.2d 730, 734 (3rd Cir. 1972). Well in advance of the 1975 amendments to Rule 11, significant steps to expand the inquiry beyond a brief colloquy with an unsworn defendant were mandated. United States v. Hawthorne, 502 F.2d 1183, 1188 (3rd Cir. 1974); United States v. Valenciano, 495 F.2d 585, 587-588 (3rd Cir. 1974); Paradiso v. United States, 482 F.2d 409, 413 (3rd Cir. 1973).

 The Court punctiliously adhered to each of these successive requirements. In conformity with the supervisory mandate of the Court of Appeals, this Court explicitly addressed the attorneys in the presence of the defendant. All specifically disclaimed any plea or sentence bargain. (Tr. 7/8/75, at 3-5) The defendant was placed under oath. He was searchingly questioned. He was told that if he dissembled he would not be heard later. Finally, he was asked if anyone had instructed him to lie to the Court.

 
THE COURT: Just a moment. Now, Mr. Martinez, I'm going to place you under oath and ask you certain questions.
 
Do you understand me?
 
MR. MARTINEZ: Yes.
 
THE COURT: If you do not tell me the truth -- if you lie to me in response to the questions that I put to you, you will be committing the separate crime of perjury. Do you understand that?
 
MR. MARTINEZ: Yes.
 
* ...

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