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Parke v. Raley

Case Name
Parke v. Raley
506 U.S. 20
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
Sandra Day O'Connor
Judge(s) - Majority
Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, Byron White, John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas
Judge(s) - Concur
Harry Blackmun
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
6th Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant was charged with robbery and with being a persistent felony offender. If convicted, he faced a mandatory minimum sentence. To avert this possibility, Defendant attempted to suppress two prior felony convictions on the basis of their being no transcript of the hearings during which he pleaded guilty. He argued that without the transcripts there was no evidence to determine that his past pleas were voluntary and knowing. The trial court rejected his argument and Defendant was sentenced to 5 years for the robbery, enhanced to 10 years as a repeat felon. Defendant sought habeas corpus review. The KY statute provided that when the defendant challenges a prior conviction through a suppression motion, the state need only prove the fact of a prior felony conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. If the state proves this, it creates a presumption of regularity and the burden shifts to the defendant to rebut the presumption by proving his rights were violated or a procedural error occurred in the prior proceeding. The Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction on multiple grounds. First, Defendant did not appeal his past convictions and there was a “presumption of regularity” that attached to those final judgments. In light of Defendant’s prior experience in the criminal justice system, his prior admission that he understood the charges to which he was pleading, and his knowing waiver of a jury trial, the Court made an additional finding that Defendant’s prior pleas were voluntary and knowing. The Court also held that it would “def[y] logic” to presume that a defendant was not advised of his rights in a prior plea hearing on the sole basis that a transcript is unavailable. Furthermore, the Court upheld the validity of the Kentucky statute, holding that when a collateral attack on a prior conviction is founded on constitutional claims, the presumption of regularity that final judgments create makes it entirely appropriate for the burden of proof to rest on the defendant.

Key Quote

“On collateral review, we think it defies logic to presume from the mere unavailability of a transcript (assuming no allegation that the unavailability is due to governmental misconduct) that the defendant was not advised of his rights. In this situation, […] state court [is not prohibited] from presuming, at least initially, that a final judgment of conviction offered for purposes of sentence enhancement was validly obtained.” p.30