Rufus B. Jones, Appellant,
State of Florida, Appellee.
final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. James C.
Michael Ufferman of the Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A.,
Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, and Steven Edward Woods, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
Jones appeals the denial of his motion for postconviction
relief after an evidentiary hearing. He argues the
postconviction court erred by failing to find ineffective
assistance of trial counsel for improperly advising him
regarding the State's plea offer.[*] We disagree and affirm the
denial of Appellant's postconviction motion.
Facts and Procedural History
a jury trial, Jones was found guilty of attempted
second-degree murder and received the minimum mandatory
sentence of twenty years imprisonment. This Court affirmed
the judgment and sentence. See Jones v. State, 107
So.3d 563 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). Thereafter, Jones timely filed
a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule
of Criminal Procedure 3.850, arguing his lead trial counsel,
Attorney Handfield, rendered ineffective assistance in
advising him to decline a favorable plea offer from the
State. The postconviction court held an evidentiary hearing
on his claims.
was represented by Attorney Handfield, lead counsel at trial,
and Attorney Akbar, a local attorney acting as second chair.
It is undisputed that prior to trial the State submitted a
five-year plea offer, which was renewed on the day of trial.
postconviction evidentiary hearing, Jones claimed Attorney
Handfield advised him not to accept the plea offer because he
believed the victim's testimony would be favorable to
Jones' defense, and he was confident he would win at
trial. However, Jones could not recall whether Attorney
Handfield advised if he had spoken with or deposed the
victim. Jones claims that had he known the victim's
testimony would not be favorable to him at trial, he would
have accepted the plea offer.
Akbar, defense co-counsel, confirmed that Jones was offered a
five-year plea deal, which he conveyed to Jones. He was not
present when Attorney Handfield discussed the plea offer with
Jones. According to Attorney Akbar, Attorney Handfield told
Jones' family not to take the plea as he had a strong
case for trial. Attorney Akbar indicated Jones relied heavily
on what his family thought and suggested. Attorney Akbar also
recalled Attorney Handfield advising the family that the
victim's testimony would be favorable to the defense.
However, in his opinion it was not. Attorney Akbar testified
that he encouraged both Jones and his family to take the plea
offer, as Jones was facing a maximum sentence of life with a
minimum mandatory of twenty years. Regardless, Jones declined
Handfield, lead defense counsel, testified the victim was not
a cooperative witness. But, at trial, he was able to elicit
testimony from the victim that he was a convicted murderer,
did not see who shot him, did not want the case prosecuted,
had been stalking Jones' mother, and had threatened to
take her life. Attorney Handfield believed the five-year plea
offer was reasonable under the circumstances, but Jones
declined to accept. He claimed that when he spoke with
Jones' family, he explained the offer was reasonable. He
denied instructing Jones to reject the plea offer, but
instead recommended to Jones that he accept it. Attorney
Handfield agreed that he believed there was a good chance of
winning at trial but claimed he never guarantees a victory
and did not do so in this case. According to Attorney
Handfield, Jones' family was encouraging him not to
accept the plea agreement. He could not recall whether he or
Attorney Akbar took the victim's deposition and claimed
he was not relying on the victim's testimony to make his
prosecutor in the case testified he discussed the plea offer
with Attorney Akbar and both agreed Jones should have taken
the plea offer. However, he recalled that Attorney Handfield
was "in charge" of the defense. According to the
prosecutor, both defense attorneys discussed the plea offer
with Jones, but he did not wish to accept.
conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the postconviction
judge orally announced his ruling. Regarding the legal advice