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High Court Declines Plea Bargain Case Over Two Dissents

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson balked at her colleagues' refusal to consider ineffective counsel claims from a man sentenced to 159 years in prison for a string of armed robberies. The case "is an ideal vehicle to evaluate the Eleventh Circuit’s bright-line rule that an adequate showing of prejudice requires an actual plea offer,” Jackson wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, reports Courthouse News Service. Quartavious Davis was convicted of seven 2010 armed robberies in South Florida. During the two-month span of the robberies, Davis turned 19. While his co-defendants negotiated plea deals that carried under 40 years in prison, Davis, was subjected to six mandatory consecutive terms of 25 years’ imprisonment and one mandatory consecutive term of five years for 16 charges.

In his petition to the high court, Davis said his lawyer failed to discuss with him the pros and cons of going to trial versus pleading guilty. One thing not mentioned was the likelihood that Davis would “receive a life sentence based on the mandatory stacking of his penalties.” He also says they never discussed how the fact that his co-defendants were already cooperating with the government would hurt his chances at being found not guilty. Jackson argued in her dissent that the high court missed an opportunity to weigh in on the fact that the government never extended Davis a plea deal, affecting his effective counsel claim. “That important legal question is isolated here; since the Eleventh Circuit assumed deficient performance, so can we. And because the lower courts denied Davis’s motion without an evidentiary hearing based solely on the pleading deficiency, the sole question before us is whether a defendant must allege (and then ultimately show) that an actual plea offer was made,” Jackson said.


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