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Benton v. Brewer

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 6, 2019

Allanah T. Benton, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Shawn Brewer, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: October 22, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:16-cv-13648-Denise Page Hood, Chief District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Anna R. Rapa, Mears, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Jared D. Schultz, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Jared D. Schultz, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Allanah Benton, Ypsilanti, Michigan, pro se.

          Before: CLAY, THAPAR, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          THAPAR, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Allanah Benton alleges that her defense attorney's bad advice made her pass up a favorable plea deal. But she did not timely raise her claim and has not offered a good excuse for not raising it. Thus, she cannot obtain federal habeas relief. We affirm.

         I.

         Benton is a former schoolteacher who was indicted for having sex with a twelve-year-old student. She went to trial and testified that she was innocent. But a Michigan jury disbelieved her and found her guilty. The judge sentenced her to twenty-five to thirty-eight years' imprisonment. Benton then traded in her two trial lawyers for new appellate counsel, who raised several constitutional and evidentiary arguments. But her conviction was affirmed.

         Six months later, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (2012). There, the Court held that defendants could make out a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel by proving that their lawyer's incompetence caused them to reject a favorable plea offer. Id. at 174. Benton returned to the trial court with a motion for postconviction relief, alleging that had happened to her. She filed an affidavit stating that on the first morning of her trial, her attorney Michael Cronkright told her she had twenty minutes to decide whether to accept a brand-new plea offer. The deal was good: a year in jail for a guilty plea to a lesser charge. Yet Benton was concerned: if she took the deal, would she lose custody of her infant children? According to Benton, Cronkright told her that she would. So she turned the deal down. But, Benton claimed, ...


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