Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ineffective Defense Job Gets Sentence Tossed; What's Heartbreaking Is 'This Fellow Did Six Years When He Didn't Have To'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ineffective Defense Job Gets Sentence Tossed; What's Heartbreaking Is 'This Fellow Did Six Years When He Didn't Have To'

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

A federal judge has thrown out the 10-year prison sentence of a Jacksonville man, finding that the 4th Circuit Public Defender's Office did an ineffective job representing him.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan ordered Gregory Lamont Green, 52, resentenced to time served and released last month. Green is now a free man and his lawyers weren't sure where he was.

According to court documents, Green had been locked up after being convicted in a 2007 robbery and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was allowed work-release privileges but was arrested again when he failed to return to prison. Prosecutors offered a plea deal of 12 months for the escape charge to run concurrently with the 18 months Green was already serving.

His lawyers relayed the plea offer to him in December 2009, and Green indicated he would probably take the offer but wanted to talk with his ailing mother first.

But the deadline for accepting the plea deal expired before his attorneys spoke with Green again, and the case was assigned to repeat offender court.

He later pleaded guilty in April 2010 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Circuit Judge Lawrence Haddock. During his sentencing hearing Green attempted to inform the judge about his attorneys' actions but was dissuaded from doing so.

Representing himself, Green later filed a motion for a new trial. That motion was denied by Circuit Judge Brad Stetson.

Stetson found that when defense attorneys asked for a 12-month sentence after Green pleaded guilty, Haddock rejected it. That means the attorneys were not ineffective because the judge wouldn't have accepted the plea deal anyway.

Stetson's decision was later affirmed by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

After exhausting his appeals at the state level, Green took his case to federal court. The Federal Public Defender's Office started representing him.

When Corrigan got the case, he found that local public defender's office had failed Green.

"The standard a petitioner must meet to obtain federal habeas relief is an intentionally difficult one," Corrigan said in his ruling. …

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