Hooks v. WalleyAnnotate this Case
Warden Brad Hooks appealed the grant of Ray Walley’s application for a writ of habeas corpus after the habeas court ruled that Walley’s appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to pursue a claim of ineffective assistance by trial counsel. Walley was indicted by grand jury of one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of child molestation. The State’s articulated plea offer included a recommendation that he serve seven years in prison. His original trial counsel was Billy Spruell, but during what was scheduled to be a plea hearing, the trial court declared that it would allow Spruell to withdraw from representing Walley after Spruell stated to the court that he did not believe that it was in Walley’s best interest to plead guilty, and after Walley told the court that Spruell had not conveyed to him any plea offer from the State that included a recommendation that Walley be sentenced to serve five years in prison. Walley was tried before a jury with new counsel, Charles Haldi, and convicted on both counts; he subsequently received a sentence totaling twenty years, of which 15 were to be served in prison, with the remainder to be served on probation. After trial, Walley was represented by Brian Steel, who raised various issues in an amended motion for new trial, which was denied. One issue raised was that Spruell failed to convey the plea offer to Walley, a claim he withdrew during the hearing on the amended motion. In 2013, Walley petitioned for habeas relief, alleging ineffective assistance on Steel’s part in that Steel abandoned a claim that Walley had been afforded ineffective assistance by Spruell, which claim was based on Walley’s assertion that Spruell did not communicate the five-year plea offer. The Supreme Court reversed. "[W]hile part of Walley’s burden in the habeas court included showing that trial counsel failed to convey the plea offer, and was ineffective in doing so, those deficiencies alone do not demonstrate that appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to pursue a claim based upon trial counsel’s performance. [. . .] on the question of Steel’s abandoning any claim of ineffective assistance on Spruell’s part in failing to convey the plea offer, it was Walley’s burden in the habeas court to overcome the presumption that Steel’s decision not to pursue such a ground was reasonable, and instead show that this 'decision was an unreasonable one which only an incompetent attorney would adopt.' And this Walley simply failed to do."