April 13, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:13-000678 -
Edmond E. Chang, Judge.
POSNER, Manion and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
Robert Hudson was granted habeas relief by a federal district
judge, who ordered the state of Illinois to reoffer a plea
deal. State prosecutors complied with that writ, but a state
judge refused to accept the deal. Since Hudson received all
the relief he sought in his first habeas action, we affirm
the dismissal by the district court.
2005, awaiting trial on state charges for armed robbery and
two counts of unlawful restraint, Robert Hudson was advised
by his court-appointed public defender that he faced a
possible sentence of six to sixty years. Accordingly, he
rejected a plea deal by the prosecutor offering him twenty
years. The case went to trial, and when the case was
submitted and the jury was deliberating, the prosecutor again
approached Hudson with an offer: sixteen years. Hudson again
rejected this deal, believing that he could be acquitted, or
if convicted, receive as little as six years in prison.
was convicted, and at sentencing, it was discovered that his
criminal history was far more extensive than his trial
counsel had thought, including prior convictions for murder,
armed robbery, burglary, felony theft, and felony drug
possession. Due to these various violent crimes, Hudson has
been incarcerated almost continuously from 1979 until the
present day. Given this criminal history, Hudson received a
mandatory natural life sentence without the possibility of
parole. In 2013, after exhausting his state appeals process,
Hudson filed a habeas action in federal district court,
alleging that he was denied effective assistance of counsel
during plea negotiations. The district court on August 27,
2014, issued the writ, finding that but for his counsel's
deficiencies, Hudson would have accepted the plea offer.
Hudson v. Harrington, No. 13 C 00678 (N.D. 111. Aug.
27, 2014). Following Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156
(2012), the district court determined that the proper remedy
was not immediate release, but rather ordered the state of
Illinois to reoffer Hudson the original plea deal of twenty
years' imprisonment, noting that "the state trial
court can then exercise its discretion in determining whether
to vacate the convictions and resentence [Hudson] pursuant to
the plea agreement, to vacate only some of the convictions
and resentence [Hudson] accordingly, or to leave the
convictions and sentence from trial undisturbed."
state of Illinois offered Hudson a plea deal on March 3,
2015, based upon one charge of attempted armed robbery. This
new offer was specifically tailored to avoid a mandatory life
sentence, and the range of imprisonment was fifteen to thirty
years. Hudson accepted the plea deal, and he and the State
filed an agreed motion under 735ILCS 5/2-1401 to vacate the
conviction and resentence. On March 20, 2015, the parties met
in Illinois state court before the same judge who presided
over Hudson's original trial, and attempted to file an
appearance. However, the state judge declined to rule on the
plea deal on the grounds that she had no jurisdiction over
the matter, noting that all she had before her were
"orders from the Appellate Court... that suggested all
issues addressed by this Court were correct, and ... nothing
from the Federal Court that suggests otherwise. So you can
file your appearance to do what? I mean, there is nothing
here. I don't have jurisdiction. I don't have
April 6, 2015, the parties appeared again before the same
judge, this time with additional documentation, including the
habeas opinion of the federal district court. Again, the
procedural irregularity of the writ was noted by the state
judge. She noted again that the original sentence had not
been vacated, so that she had no jurisdiction over Hudson.
She further noted that the new plea deal was contrary to
Illinois state law, asking: "[H]ow does the State's
Attorney or Miss Madigan give an offer that's illegal ...
[Hudson] wishes to plead guilty to some other offense that he
was not convicted of?"
on February 23, 2016, Hudson and four attorneys again
appeared in Illinois state court and finally obtained a
merits ruling. Again the state judge asked what jurisdiction
she had over his case. When federal habeas jurisdiction was
recited to her, she asked: "Do you have a copy of the
federal district court order that is ordering me to do
something?" After reading lengthy portions of
Hudson's violent criminal history into the record and
noting that she had reviewed "every single affidavit,
every pleading ... all the information that was provided by
the State's Attorney's Office[, ] the Will County
Adult Probation Department[, ] and the Will County
Clerk's Office, " the state judge finally rejected
the plea deal outright. She further noted that she would have
rejected the plea deal even if she were considering the deal
for the first time, after factoring in Hudson's criminal
history. Hudson has appealed this denial of his plea
agreement in state court, and that action remains pending.
returned to the federal district judge who had issued the
habeas writ, filing a "motion to enforce" that
sought his immediate release from the Illinois Department of
Corrections. Again following the Supreme Court's decision
in Lafler, the district judge this time denied the
motion on the grounds that Hudson's state appeal remains
pending, and that "the Illinois Appellate Court should
have the first opportunity to both define
Lafler's discretionary factors and in deciding
how to resentence or treat a reoffered plea, and to determine
whether the state trial court operated within the bounds of
fair discretion in this case." This ruling terminated
the case in the district court. Today, we dismiss this case
for lack of jurisdiction.
Supreme Court's decision in Lafler v. Cooper
applied the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of effective
assistance of counsel to a trial's plea-bargaining stage.
This case does present a difficulty for trial courts:
distinguishing genuine unconstitutionally ineffective
assistance of counsel from "sandbagging." Unlike
cases where defense counsel is ineffective at trial,
ineffective counsel in the Lafler context might be
perfectly adequate at trial-even excellent. In this case, the
progressively reduced plea offers by the state of Illinois to
Robert Hudson, starting with twenty years and reducing to
sixteen years, suggests as much. In other words, an Illinois
jury heard Hudson's best case and still convicted him.
While not addressed in Lafler, a defendant facing a
mandatory natural life sentence in a case with strong
evidence against him would have no reason to reject an
unlawfully offered lower ...