Lawrence K. Hinkle, Petitioner Below, Petitioner
J.T. Binion, Superintendent, Huttonsville Correctional Center, Respondent Below, Respondent
Lawrence K. Hinkle, pro se, appeals the April 9, 2018, order
of the Circuit Court of Mingo County dismissing his petition
for a writ of habeas corpus. Respondent J.T. Binion,
Superintendent, Huttonsville Correctional Center,
counsel Shannon Frederick Kiser, filed a summary response.
Petitioner filed a reply.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are
adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. This case satisfies the
"limited circumstances" requirement of Rule 21(d)
of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and is appropriate for a
memorandum decision rather than an opinion. For the reasons
expressed below, the decision of the circuit court is
reversed, and this case is remanded to the circuit court for
specific findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding
petitioner's allegation that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel in his first habeas corpus proceeding.
1998, petitioner was indicted on two counts of first-degree
murder. The second killing occurred while petitioner was free
on bond following the first killing. On June 2, 1998,
petitioner entered into a plea agreement with the State.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, petitioner agreed to plead
guilty to voluntary manslaughter with regard to the first
killing and to first-degree murder with regard to the second
killing in exchange for a recommendation of mercy. The State
further agreed to make a non-binding recommendation that
petitioner serve his sentences of incarceration concurrently.
At a June 1, 1998, plea hearing, the circuit court questioned
petitioner as to whether those terms constituted the entirety
of the parties' agreement and whether petitioner was
promised anything not contained within the plea agreement:
Q. Now that I have read to you the plea letter of June
1st in open court in its entirely, is that the
entire agreement that you have with the State of West
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is there anything else whatsoever that you think has been
promised to you or that's a part of your plea agreement
that is not set forth in this letter.
its full colloquy with petitioner,  the circuit court found that
he voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly entered a guilty
plea to the offense of voluntary manslaughter with regard to
the first killing and a guilty plea to the offense of
first-degree murder with regard to the second killing. At a
July 20, 1998, sentencing hearing, petitioner's trial
attorney informed the circuit court that petitioner was
initially reluctant to accept the plea agreement because he
did not believe that he deserved a plea bargain, but that
petitioner's friend helped to persuade him to agree to
the State's plea offer. Trial counsel explained:
. . . I went to a family friend of [petitioner] and together
we talked to him, cried, talked, cried, and it ended up that
[trial counsel's husband] was right. [Petitioner]
didn't think he deserved the deal. The reason this
finally ended in a plea is because [petitioner] seemed to
realize that this plea offer not only was for him[, ] it was
also for members of both families and his family.
circuit court sentenced petitioner to a life term of
incarceration for his first-degree murder conviction, with
the possibility of parole, and to fifteen years for his
voluntary manslaughter conviction. Petitioner did not file an
appeal in his criminal case.
January 10, 2011, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus. The petition was filed by Attorney Charles S.
West, whom petitioner's family retained to represent him
in his first habeas proceeding. Petitioner identifies
Attorney West as the family friend who helped to persuade him
to agree to the State's plea offer in his criminal case.
In the first habeas proceeding, the circuit court held an
evidentiary hearing on May 31, 2011. Attorney West presented
the testimony of several witnesses including petitioner and
petitioner's trial counsel. Among the grounds for relief
raised by Attorney West were that petitioner's guilty
pleas should be found invalid and that the plea agreement
should be voided. However, neither petitioner nor Attorney
West informed the circuit court of Attorney West's
involvement in persuading petitioner to accept the plea
agreement. By order entered June 10, 2011, the circuit court
rejected petitioner's grounds for relief and denied his
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner did not
appeal the denial of his first petition.
December 13, 2012, petitioner filed a second habeas petition
alleging ineffective assistance of habeas counsel. Petitioner
was appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition on March
12, 2018. Petitioner argued that Attorney West had a conflict
of interest that he should have disclosed to the circuit
court in the prior habeas proceeding. Petitioner alleged
that, in persuading petitioner to accept the plea agreement,
Attorney West told him that, after petitioner served ten
years of incarceration, Attorney West would "do
something to get him released." Following a March 13, 2018,
hearing, the circuit court dismissed the petition, finding
that petitioner had "no new grounds [for
now appeals the circuit court's April 9, 2018, order
dismissing the instant habeas petition. In Syllabus Point 1
of Watts v. Ballard, 2 ...