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Hamilton v. Douma

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

September 20, 2016

TIM DOUMA, Warden for New Lisbon Correctional Institution, Respondent.


          BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge

         Petitioner Robert Lee Hamilton, a prisoner at New Lisbon Correctional Institution, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After conducting a preliminary review of the petition in accordance with Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings, I directed respondent Tim Douma to answer the petition. Respondent has answered the petition, which is now fully briefed and ready for decision. After reviewing the materials submitted by the parties, I conclude that petitioner has failed to show that the state court decisions he is challenging involved an unreasonable application of federal law or an unreasonable determination of the facts. Accordingly, I am denying the petition.

         From the petition, the court's records and state court records available electronically, I find the following facts.


         On July 23, 1997, petitioner pleaded guilty to the following crimes: (1) armed robbery-threat of force, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 943.32(1)(b) and (2); (2) first-degree sexual assault, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 940.225(1)(b); (3) attempted first-degree intentional homicide while armed, in violation of Wis.Stat. §§ 940.01(1), 939.32 and 939.63; (4) first-degree recklessly endangering safety while armed, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 941.30(1) and 939.63; and (5) resisting an officer, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 946.41(1). In connection with his plea, petitioner signed a “guilty plea questionnaire and waiver of rights form, ” in which he indicated that he understood that he could be sentenced to up to a maximum of 173 years in prison. At the plea hearing, the sentencing judge again informed petitioner that he could be sentenced to 173 years in prison, but the judge noted that petitioner's counsel intended to submit a motion challenging the imposition of the habitual criminal offender penalty before the sentencing. The judge informed petitioner that if this motion were successful, the habitual criminal enhancement penalty would not be applied to four of the five charges, so his maximum sentence might be lower than 173 years, but it would not be any higher regardless of the outcome on the motion. Petitioner indicated that he understood and pleaded guilty to all five charges.

         Petitioner was sentenced on October 9, 1997. Prior to sentencing petitioner, the judge informed the parties that he had considered and was denying petitioner's challenge to the habitual criminal enhancement penalty. Accordingly, the judge applied the enhancement to all five counts. Petitioner was sentenced to a total of 155 years in prison: 50 years on the armed robbery count, 50 years on the sexual assault count, 55 years on the attempted first-degree homicide count, 15 years on the recklessly endangering safety count and three years on the obstructing an officer count. The sentences for counts one, two and three were to run consecutively, while counts four and five (recklessly endangering safety and obstructing an officer, respectively), ran concurrently to the sentences on counts one, two and three.


         Petitioner raises five grounds for relief in his petition. However, grounds three and five both relate to the question whether he was informed of the maximum potential penalty he could face. Accordingly, I construe petitioner as raising the following issues:

(1) Petitioner's plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was not advised of the presumptive minimum sentences on two of his charges.
(2) Petitioner's plea was not knowing and voluntary because the court failed to explain to him the “utter disregard” element of the recklessly endangering safety charge.
(3) Petitioner's pleas were not knowing and voluntary because he did not understand the maximum penalty he was facing on each offense when he pleaded guilty.
(4) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to challenge petitioner's penalty enhancement for engaging in habitual criminality prior to the plea.

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 allows a district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody under a state court judgment “only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). When the state court addresses a petitioner's habeas claims on their merits, the federal court is bound by a “highly deferential” standard of review, Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002), that requires it to uphold the state court's decision unless it was (1) contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). For the purpose of reviewing the reasonableness of the state court's decision, “a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011). Applying these standards to petitioner's claims, I conclude that he is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus.

         A. Failure to Advise as ...

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