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United States v. Carter

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 28, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HUEY JACQUE CARTER, AKA Baby Huey, AKA Reesio, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted February 4, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Margaret M. Morrow, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:11-cr-00358-MMM-1.

SUMMARY [**]

Criminal Law

The panel affirmed a criminal judgment in a case in which the defendant, who asserts he was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time he entered his guilty plea, contends that the district court, by insufficiently inquiring as to the effect of those drugs at the plea hearing, failed to fulfill its duty under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b) to ensure the defendant entered the plea knowingly and voluntarily.

The panel held that the scope of the district court's inquiry was sufficient to ensure that the defendant entered his plea knowingly and voluntarily, and it therefore did not commit a constitutional or procedural error.

Michael Tanaka (argued), Deputy Federal Public Defender; Sean K. Kennedy, Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Max B. Shiner (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Violent & Organized Crime Section; Robert E. Dugdale, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Criminal Division; André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Michael J. Melloy,[*] Jay S. Bybee, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

MELLOY, Circuit Judge

Defendant Huey Carter timely filed a direct appeal following a guilty plea. He asserts he was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time he entered his plea. Carter asks us to vacate the plea because he contends the district court insufficiently inquired as to the effect of those drugs at his plea hearing. Without a more searching inquiry, Carter argues, the district court failed to fulfill its duty under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(b) to ensure he entered the plea knowingly and voluntarily. Because the scope of the district court's inquiry was constitutionally and procedurally sufficient, we affirm.

I

Huey Carter sold crack cocaine to a confidential informant in December 2010. A grand jury returned an indictment in April 2011, charging Carter with distributing crack cocaine. Carter was arrested and arraigned in February 2012. He pleaded not guilty, and the court appointed a public defender to represent him.

A few weeks later, Carter asked the court to allow him to represent himself. A hearing on self-representation was set for March, but the parties stipulated to postponing the hearing date to April. At the April hearing, Carter explained he had attended school through the twelfth grade, represented himself in another case, and researched the law about selfrepresentation. He specifically mentioned he wanted to " exercise [his] Faretta [1] rights." To ensure that Carter was competent to represent himself, the district court asked him about an allegation that his hearing had been postponed because he had been placed on suicide watch. Carter denied the allegation. Carter's public defender expressed no concerns about Carter's ability to carry out the basic tasks of representing himself. The district court granted Carter's request to represent himself. The district court nevertheless expressed concern about the suicide-watch issue and asked the government to look into it.

The government filed a report in May explaining Carter was insubordinate while in custody. It was that insubordination, not suicide watch, that forced Carter to postpone the hearing.

Carter and the government eventually signed a plea agreement in August 2012. In exchange for pleading guilty, the government agreed to dismiss an information regarding a prior drug conviction, effectively taking a ten-year mandatory-minimum sentence off the table. In the plea agreement, the government explained the penalties, the elements of the offense, and the constitutional rights that Carter was waiving. The agreement also included an appeal waiver, allowing Carter to appeal based only on the voluntariness of the guilty plea.

The district court held a plea hearing in September 2012. The district court asked about Carter's mental state. Before administering the oath, the district court instructed Carter to tell the court if there was anything he did not understand. The district court asked Carter for his name, whether he wanted ...


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