ELLINGTON, P. J., BETHEL and GOBEIL, JJ.
convicted Harden Walker of rape and false imprisonment. In
Walker v. State, 341 Ga.App. 742, 745-47 (2) (801
S.E.2d 621) (2017), this Court affirmed Walker's
convictions but vacated the trial court's ruling on
Walker's claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. On
remand, the trial court again denied his motion for a new
trial. Walker now appeals from that ruling. For the reasons
set forth below, we affirm.
motion for new trial, Walker claimed that his trial counsel
failed to adequately advise him regarding a pre-trial plea
deal offered by the State. Id. at 745 (2). As this
Court's prior opinion in this case outlined,
During pre-trial plea negotiations, the State offered to
recommend to the trial court that Walker serve 20 years in
prison in exchange for his guilty plea to the charged
offenses of rape and false imprisonment. It is undisputed
that, when the State made the plea offer, both the prosecutor
and Walker's trial counsel erroneously believed that 20
years was the maximum sentence that Walker could receive on
the rape charge, when, in fact, he could receive a life
sentence. Based on counsel's erroneous advice that 20
years was the maximum rape sentence, Walker rejected the plea
offer, went to trial, was convicted on both charges, and
received a sentence of life imprisonment for rape plus five
years for false imprisonment. Walker testified at the hearing
on the new trial motion that trial counsel told him about the
State's 20-year plea offer and that "more than
likely" he would have taken the plea offer if trial
counsel had advised him that the maximum sentence for rape
was life imprisonment. Although Walker testified that he did
not learn about the possibility of life imprisonment until
sentencing, trial counsel testified that, just prior to
opening statements, the prosecutor told her that the maximum
sentence for the rape charge was life imprisonment and that
Walker was also made aware at that time that the maximum
sentence was life.
Id. at 745 (2).
brought a motion for new trial, claiming, inter
alia, that his trial counsel was ineffective in advising
him regarding the State's plea offer. The trial court
determined that Walker had not been prejudiced by this
deficiency, and on that and other grounds denied Walker's
motion for a new trial.
in its review of the record and the trial court's order,
this Court determined that the record did not support the
trial court's conclusion regarding prejudice.
Id. at 745-47 (2). Accordingly, this Court vacated
the trial court's denial of Walker's motion for new
trial and remanded the case to the trial court to make
factual findings and legal conclusions relating to the
prejudice prong under Strickland and the United
States Supreme Court's ruling in Lafler v.
Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 168 (II) (B) (132 S.Ct. 1376, 182
L.Ed.2d 398) (2012). Walker, 341 Ga.App. at 747 (2).
This Court explicitly noted that Walker could bring a new
appeal from the trial court's ruling regarding prejudice
and any resentencing undertaken by the trial court.
remand, the trial court again found that Walker was not
prejudiced by his trial counsel's deficiency. The trial
court specifically found, in the face of disputed testimony,
that Walker had been advised prior to and during trial that
the actual maximum sentence for his charges was life
imprisonment. The trial court found that Walker decided to
proceed to trial based on his belief that the State's DNA
evidence would not be sufficient to convict him and that the
prior plea offer and the confusion regarding the maximum
available sentence did not factor into his decision. The
trial court further found that there was no evidence that,
once rejected, a 20-year plea offer from the State remained
open. Moreover, the trial court found no evidence to suggest
that once the prosecutor became aware that the maximum
available sentence was life imprisonment, the State would
have offered a lower sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
This appeal followed.
Walker first argues that, on remand, the trial court erred in
its determination that Walker was not prejudiced by
counsel's deficiency. We disagree.
establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must
show that his counsel's performance was professionally
deficient and that, but for such deficient performance, there
is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial
would have been different. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 669 (2) (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). Moreover, in Lafler, the United
States Supreme Court specifically ruled that where
counsel's deficient advice has led a defendant to reject
a plea offer and stand trial, to establish prejudice under
the second Strickland prong,
a defendant must show that but for the ineffective advice of
counsel there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer
would have been presented to the court (i.e., that the
defendant would have accepted the plea and the prosecution
would not have withdrawn it in light of intervening
circumstances), that the court would have accepted its terms,
and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the
offer's terms would have been less severe than under the
judgment and sentence that in fact were imposed.
Lafler, 566 U.S. at 164 (II) (B). In reviewing a
claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal, this
Court upholds a trial court's factual findings and
credibility determinations unless they are clearly erroneous,
but the trial court's legal conclusions are reviewed by
this Court de novo. Goldstein v. State, 283 Ga.App.
1, 4 (3) (640 S.E.2d 599) (2006).
case, deferring to the trial court's factual findings, we
agree that Walker has not established a reasonable likelihood
that but for his counsel's deficient advice regarding
sentencing, the outcome of the proceeding would have been
different. The testimony at the hearing on Walker's
motion for new trial established, and the trial court found,
that the State, Walker, and his counsel believed 20 years to
be the maximum available sentence for his rape charge when
the State made its plea offer. Walker nonetheless rejected
this offer and elected to proceed to trial. Even once Walker
and his counsel became aware that Walker actually faced a
life sentence on his rape charge (after being so advised by
the State prior to trial), nothing in the record suggests
that Walker instructed his counsel to re-open plea
negotiations or ask the State whether the 20-year offer
remained open. Cf. Daniel v. State, 342 Ga.App. 448,
452-54 (2) (b) (803 S.E.2d 603) (2017) (defendant was
mistakenly advised in regard to trial court's discretion
in sentencing and was never advised that if convicted he
would be sentenced as ...