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Bradley v. United States

August 25, 2005

RONALD D. BRADLEY, JR., APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (F-6388-96). (Hon. Susan R. Winfield, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge

Submitted February 10, 2005

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and TERRY and WAGNER, Associate Judges.*fn1

Appellant pleaded guilty to the crime of second-degree murder while armed. Six years later, he filed a motion (his second) to vacate his sentence, pursuant to D.C. Code § 23-110 (2001), which the trial court denied without a hearing in a detailed five-page order. From that order appellant brings this appeal; we affirm.

I.

Appellant was originally charged by indictment with first-degree murder while armed, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder while armed, and two related firearms offenses. In September 1997 he entered a plea of guilty to the lesser included offense of second-degree murder while armed, and a few weeks thereafter he was sentenced to imprisonment for twenty years to life, with a five-year mandatory minimum term. It appears that he noted an appeal from his conviction, but three months later the appeal was withdrawn.*fn2 Then, in March 1998, the trial court granted appellant's motion to reduce his sentence to fifteen years to life, while retaining the mandatory*fn3 five-year minimum.

In November 2001 appellant filed a motion to vacate his sentence, pursuant to D.C. Code § 23-110 ("the first § 23-110 motion"), which the court denied on January 7, 2002. In that motion appellant maintained, inter alia, that his plea of guilty was coerced and involuntary, and that his attorney was ineffective because he failed to advise the court of his claim of innocence. Appellant appealed from the denial of the first § 23-110 motion, but the trial court's order was affirmed by this court in an unpublished Memorandum Opinion and Judgment. Bradley v. United States, No. 02-CO-102 (D.C. November 14, 2002). In that decision we held that appellant's motion "fell far short of demonstrating . . . that the acceptance of his guilty plea was manifestly unjust or that fundamental flaws in the plea proceeding resulted in a miscarriage of justice." This court also held that appellant's "generic claims of coercion, involuntariness, and ineffective assistance of counsel are belied by his colloquy with the court when he tendered his plea," and were in any event "too vague and conclusory even to entitle him to a hearing."

Undaunted, appellant filed a second motion on November 24, 2003, to vacate his sentence and withdraw his guilty plea ("the second § 23-110 motion"). In that motion, appellant asserted that the trial court erred in not holding a competency hearing sua sponte before accepting the guilty plea, and that his attorney was ineffective because he failed to request such a hearing. Once again, in January 2004, the trial court denied appellant's second § 23-110 motion without a hearing, both as procedurally barred and on its merits. This appeal followed.

II.

Before accepting appellant's guilty plea, the trial court engaged in a discussion with appellant in order to ensure that he was making his plea knowingly and voluntarily. Among the questions the court asked was whether appellant was under the influence of any drugs, alcohol, or any medications, to which appellant answered, "No." The court also asked whether appellant had any psychological problems:

THE COURT: Are you experiencing any mental problems or emotional problems? It's okay, you can say.

THE DEFENDANT: Sort of.

THE COURT: What kinds of mental problems or emotional problems are you experiencing?

(Pause.)

THE COURT: Is it that you are feeling stressed out because of ...


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