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Burton v. United States

May 23, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James H. Jarvis United States District Judge


This is a motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the following reasons, the § 2255 motion will be DENIED and this action will be DISMISSED. All other pending motions will be DENIED as MOOT.

I. Standard of Review

This court must vacate and set aside petitioner's conviction upon a finding that "there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. To prevail under § 2255, petitioner "must show a 'fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice,' or, an error so egregious that it amounts to a violation of due process."

United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.2d 627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1968)).

Under Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings In The United States District Courts, the court is to determine after a review of the answer and the records of the case whether an evidentiary hearing is required. If the motion to vacate, the answer and the records of the case show conclusively that petitioner is not entitled to relief under § 2255, there is no need for an evidentiary hearing. Baker v. United States, 781 F.2d 85, 92 (6th Cir. 1986).

II. Factual Background

Petitioner and co-defendant, David E. Crozier, were charged, in a nine-count second superseding indictment, of the following: conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute various controlled substances (count one); armed robbery of a pharmacy (count two); using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence (count three); being a felon in possession of a firearm (count four referred to petitioner and count five referred to Crozier); possession with intent to distribute Schedule II controlled substances (count six); possession with intent to distribute a Schedule III controlled substance (count seven); possession with intent to distribute a Schedule IV controlled substance (count eight); and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (count nine). [Criminal Action No. 3:97-cr-154, Court File No. 71, Second Superseding Indictment].

Following a bench trial, petitioner was found guilty on all charges against him and was sentenced as a career offender to a term of imprisonment of 562 months. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. United States v. Crozier, 259 F.3d 503 (6th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1149 (2002). The Sixth Circuit summarized the evidence against the defendants, with reference to discrete criminal activities, as follows:

1. The Tennessee Rite-Aid Robbery

On November 26, 1995, two armed gunmen robbed the Rite-Aid Drug Store in Clinton, Tennessee, and absconded with numerous pharmaceutical drugs, including Schedule II, Schedule III, and Schedule IV controlled substances. During the robbery, one of the robbers (later identified as Burton) repeatedly asked Katrina DeBusk, the Rite-Aid pharmacist, about the location of several drugs, including Dilaudid pills and morphine. Several days after the robbery, DeBusk helped police prepare a composite sketch of the first suspect in about fifteen minutes. Police worked on a composite of the second suspect (again, later identified as Burton) for approximately three hours but failed to produce a sketch satisfactory to DeBusk.

Approximately one month later, DeBusk and Shelly Simonds, the only other Rite-Aid employee present during the robbery, separately identified Burton as one of the robbers from a photographic line-up. The Clinton Police Department, which uses black-and-white mug shots, had obtained Burton's photograph from the Lexington, Kentucky, Police Department, which uses color mug shots. Accordingly, Burton's photograph was the only color photograph shown to the witnesses. On March 6, 1998, both witnesses again identified Burton as the perpetrator, this time from a live line-up. Burton was the only person represented in both the photo line-up and the live line-up.

Although neither witness was able to identify Crozier as Burton's accomplice during the robbery, Crozier's brother-in-law, Richard Randolph, testified at trial that in early December, Crozier showed him a bag containing bottles of pharmaceutical drugs and told him that Crozier and Burton had obtained the drugs by robbing a Tennessee drugstore.

2. The Kentucky Drug Sales

In late November or early December 1995, in Lexington, Kentucky, Clayton Hobbs arranged for Burton to sell some drugs to Christopher Tucker. Hobbs drove Burton and an unidentified third man in a small car to Tucker's shop where Burton sold Tucker two boxes of pharmaceutical drugs. Tucker gave Burton $1,800 in one-hundred dollar bills. Tucker was unable to identify Crozier as the third man.

The next day, as previously agreed, Burton and Hobbs returned to Tucker's shop, where Tucker gave Burton an additional one thousand dollars in one-hundred dollar bills. Tucker testified that this time, Burton and Hobbs were in a Cadillac Eldorado. On December 1, Burton paid six hundred dollars cash to a pawn shop for his previously-pawned Cadillac Eldorado. The United States thus argues that although Tucker could not recall the exact date of the drug sale, the drugs must have been sold on November 30, with the follow-up payment occurring on December 1.

3. Casing the Lexington, Kentucky, Rite-Aid

At approximately 4 p.m. on December 1, security personnel for the Rite-Aid Drug Store in Lexington observed Burton and Crozier enter the store together, walk around separately, and eventually meet up at the pharmacy. Burton made a purchase and left the store, only to return a short time later, stay awhile, then leave. Burton again returned and after fifteen or twenty minutes, met up with Crozier. The two split up again, ultimately leaving the store separately. A short while later, Burton again returned, and spent approximately five minutes paying particular attention to the cash registers' and employees' locations. Crozier also re-entered the store but remained near the front. Burton finally ended this episode by placing a Tylenol bottle in his pocket. When confronted by security, a fight ensued, resulting in Burton's arrest and Crozier fleeing the scene. Police found syringes, $1,557 in cash (including fifteen one-hundred dollar bills), and a number of Dilaudid pills on Burton. Shortly after Burton's arrest, his girlfriend pawned two handguns, one of which matched the description DeBusk had given of the gun she saw during the Tennessee Rite-Aid robbery.

On December 6, police officers executed a parole violation warrant on Burton. It was while Burton was being held on that charge that the Lexington Police Department forwarded Burton's color mug shot to the Clinton Police Department in Tennessee. Burton remained incarcerated for parole violations for the remaining time relevant to this appeal.

4. The Somerset, Kentucky, Drugstore Burglary

On February 8, 1996, Randolph and Crozier's son, Brett, burglarized a Somerset, Kentucky, drugstore and brought the drugs to Crozier. Some of those drugs were then taken to Clayton Hobbs, while Crozier, Randolph, and a man named Charlie Henderson sold the morphine obtained in ...

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