7th Circuit rejects convicted killer’s habeas petition over uncommunicated plea deal

A convicted killer lost his appeal in a federal habeas case in which he claimed he was entitled to relief from a 65-year prison sentence because his lawyer failed to convey a plea deal before he was convicted after a second trial.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the habeas petition in Abdullah T. Alkhalidi v. Ron Neal, 19-1378.

Abdullah Alkhalidi was first convicted of murder, robbery and theft in 2000 and sentenced in St. Joseph Superior Court to 65 years in prison in connection with the killing of Claude Purdiman. Alkhalidi’s conviction was affirmed on direct appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court in 2001, but at some point Alkhalidi was granted post-conviction relief and a new trial in 2007 that ended in the same conviction and sentence.

Before the second trial, “Alkhalidi, his attorney, and the prosecutor met to discuss a plea deal. Following the meeting, the prosecutor proposed a plea offer with a strict deadline. On September 13, the prosecutor sent a letter to Alkhalidi’s attorney that stated the best offer he could extend would be for Alkhalidi to plead guilty to robbery and auto theft. The letter stated the offer’s deadline would be September 21, 2007,” Judge William Bauer wrote for the panel.

“In October, Alkhalidi moved to replace his attorney. The court held a pretrial hearing, wherein Alkhalidi discussed the plea negotiations and complained that his attorney did not advise him of the offer before it expired. Alkhalidi expressed dissatisfaction with the plea and indicated he had a desire to counteroffer. The court denied Alkhalidi’s motion.”

After Alkhalidi’s subsequent post-conviction relief petitions were denied, he filed a habeas petition that the Northern District of Indiana denied, and the 7th Circuit affirmed.

“Alkhalidi fails to provide evidence that the state court erred in determining that he failed to meet his burden that he would have accepted the plea. Alkhalidi was inconsistent with his inclination to accept a plea offer. The record shows multiple instances where Alkhalidi expressed dissatisfaction with the plea process and indicated he was more interested in making a counteroffer. While stating his attorney informed him of the plea but failed to provide him with the letter, Alkhalidi misunderstood certain technical aspects including pleading guilty to lesser uncharged crimes. He claims he would have made a counteroffer to the prosecution. However, no evidence in the record suggests that Alkhalidi made any attempt to counteroffer within the six months before trial. Not until seven years later does Alkhalidi say he would have accepted the plea or at the least, submit a counteroffer,” Bauer wrote.

“… Even if we were convinced Alkhalidi would accept the plea deal, a reasonable probability the prosecutor and trial court would have accepted the plea deal is unpersuasive for the simple reason that Indiana requires the defendant to admit the factual basis of the plea. Norris v. State, 896 N.E.2d 1149, 1152 (Ind. 2008). The record shows that Alkhalidi remained committed to advocating his innocence and showed no probability of abating.”

Finally, the panel concluded, “The district court properly held that because Alkhalidi failed to present his remaining claims to the state court, they are procedurally defaulted and we decline review of those claims.”

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