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Sosataquechel v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

May 2, 2018

Yasell Sosataquechel, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.141(b)(2) from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Cristina Miranda, Judge.

          Michelle Walsh, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Magaly Rodriguez, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before, FERNANDEZ, LUCK and LINDSEY, JJ.

          FERNANDEZ, J.

         Yassell Sosataquechel appeals the trial court's summary denial of his 3.850 motion for post-conviction relief. Because the record before us does not conclusively refute one of Sosataquechel's three ineffective assistance of counsel claims, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         Sosataquechel was formerly a member of the U.S. Army. He alleges that on May 11, 2011, six months before he was to be deployed to Afghanistan, Sosataquechel flew home to visit his wife, Yuleyvi, to reveal to her that he decided to abandon the military because of the continual stress it placed on their relationship. Despite his belief that this would make Yuleyvi happy, she surprisingly attacked him instead. After Yuleyvi stabbed Sosataquechel three times, injured his chin, and broke his tooth, Sosataquechel fought back and killed her. Sosataquechel alleges he then cut his own wrists in an attempt to kill himself, however, he did not die and was arrested and charged with homicide upon arrival at the hospital. After he was transferred from the hospital to jail, Sosataquechel was placed in the jail's psychological wing and given several different medications over the next two years.

         On May 17, 2013, Sosataquechel and the state entered into a plea agreement, whereby Sosataquechel entered a guilty plea to his second-degree murder charge in exchange for a forty-year sentence. In April 2015, Sosataquechel filed a 3.850 motion and asserted that his counsel had been ineffective because: 1) he did not advise Sosataquechel that he could have raised an affirmative defense of self-defense, 2) he advised Sosataquechel to reject the state's initial thirty-year plea offer because his counsel was certain the offer would only get lower, and 3) he failed to inform the court of the various medications Sosataquechel was taking at the time of the plea colloquy, even though defense counsel was fully aware of Sosataquechel's heavy medication schedule. Sosataquechel now appeals and argues that he is entitled to an evidentiary hearing because the record does not conclusively demonstrate that he is not entitled to relief or because his motion is legally sufficient. We agree with one of Sosataquechel's contentions.

         A defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a motion for post-conviction relief if 1) the motion, files, and records in the case conclusively show the defendant is entitled to relief, or 2) the motion or claims are legally sufficient. See Patton v. State, 784 So.2d 380, 386 (Fla. 2000). If the record does not conclusively refute post-conviction claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on those claims. See Rodriguez v. State, 777 So.2d 1143 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001).

         For counsel to have been ineffective, a criminal defendant must demonstrate counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Prejudice is defined as whether counsel's "ineffective performance affected the outcome of the plea process." See Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).

         First, Sosataquechel contends that his counsel was ineffective because counsel failed to investigate and inform him that he could claim self-defense as a possible defense to the second-degree murder charge. Sosataquechel asserts that had he been so informed, he would not have pled guilty and would have instead chosen to go to trial. There is prejudice if a reasonable probability exists that, but for counsel's errors, the defendant would have chosen to go to trial instead of pleading guilty. The claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is facially sufficient on Sosataquechel's assertion that he would not have entered a plea of guilty, and instead would have chosen to go to trial, had counsel informed him of the claimed defense of self-defense. Sosataquechel's affirmative answer to the court's plea colloquy question about whether he had an adequate opportunity to discuss the facts of the case and defenses thereto does not adequately resolve his present claim as to the defense of self-defense. See Wright v. State, 675 So.2d 1009 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996).

         With respect to his second claim, Sosataquechel alleges that his counsel was ineffective because he was advised to reject the state's initial thirty-year plea offer because a better offer would be given to him in the future. Under the Strickland test, prejudice is established when a defendant shows a reasonable probability existed that he would have accepted the state's plea offer and the state would not have withdrawn the offer, the court would have accepted the offer's terms, and the conviction or sentence would have been less severe than the ultimately-imposed judgment and sentence. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687; Alcorn v. State, 121 So.3d 419, 422 (Fla. 2013). Sosataquechel claims that he only rejected the state's initial plea offer because his counsel assured him that its terms would become more favorable, not worse. Instead of decreasing in sentence length, the state's offer increased by ten years, which Sosataquechel was then forced to accept.

         Lastly, Sosataquechel asserts that his counsel was ineffective because his counsel never informed the trial court that Sosataquechel was taking a multitude of medications both before and at the time of the plea colloquy, even though defense counsel knew Sosataquechel was taking them. We decline to address the ...


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