Loftis v. Almager

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 12-11-2012
  • Case #: 09-16884
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Adelman for the Court; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Silverman; Dissent by Circuit Judge Tashima
  • Full Text Opinion

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, if a defendant pleads no contest, making reference to People v. West during the plea colloquy does not trigger the factual basis requirements of North Carolina v. Alford .

At trial, Derrick Loftis pleaded no contest in exchange for dismissal of other charges. He was convicted of second-degree murder in California and sentenced to 15 years to life for selling methamphetamine to a minor and then not taking her to the hospital when she overdosed. Loftis lost on appeal and the California Supreme Court denied review. The district court denied Loftis’s petition for habeas relief. The Ninth Circuit, however, issued a certificate of appealability to determine whether Loftis’s no contest plea was knowing, voluntary, and had sufficient factual basis. The Court explained that under Alford, a trial court must find a factual basis supporting a guilty plea if a defendant pleads guilty while “affirmatively protesting their innocence,” but not if pleading no contest, regardless of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 or state analogs to the contrary. According to the Court, Loftis’s “bare reference” to West in his plea colloquy was not “tantamount to a claim of innocence,” and, therefore, did not “carry with it an implied assertion of innocence, activating the additional protections of Alford.” Stated differently, Loftis did not enter an Alford plea where he “pleaded no contest without asserting innocence or making other statements about the facts which called the validity of his plea into question.” Therefore, here, as in Alford, it was not constitutional error for the judge to accept a plea where the “defendant intelligently concludes that his interests require entry of a guilty plea and the record before the judge contains strong evidence of actual guilt,” regardless of the presence or lack of protestations of innocence. Thus, the Ninth Circuit concluded that Loftis was not constitutionally entitled to habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. AFFIRMED.

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