Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, August 03, 2012

Blanco: Counsel knew of plea deals

In Blanco v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 11-11993 (July 31, 2012), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1982 murder.
The Court rejected the argument that the defendant’s appointed mental expert was incompetent when he testified on the defendant’s behalf. The Court pointed out that at the penalty phase the defendant did not ask to halt the hearing and grant a new proceeding based on his psychiatrist’s incompetence.
The Court also rejected the claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to inform the defendant of an offer that he plead guilty and received a life sentence, with a possibility of parole after 25 years. The Court found that the record was replete with evidence that Blanco understood the plea deal. In addition, the plea deal required Blanco to admit to the killing, which he was unwilling to do.
Turning to Blanco’s claim of a Brady violation, the Court disagreed with the district court that this claim should be evaluated under the demanding standard for claims raised in "second or successive" habeas petitions, because, although Blanco raised it in his second § 2254 petition, and had not raised it in his first § 2254 petition, his first § 2254 petition had been successful. Therefore, the current § 2254 petition was the first to challenge the intervening judgment. On the merits, though, the Brady claim failed. Blanco claimed that the State failed to disclose the plea deals it had with co-defendants. The Court found that the record showed that Blanco’s counsel was aware of the deals.