Rufus B. JONES, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. James C.
Ufferman of the Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A., Tallahassee,
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 States plea offer.[*] We disagree and affirm the
denial of Appellants 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 victims 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 victims testimony would not be favorable to
him at trial, he would have accepted the plea offer.
Attorney 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 victims 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 the offer.
Attorney 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