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Hill v. United States

June 6, 2007

STEPHANIE HILL PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM

This is a motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by petitioner Stephanie Hill ("Hill"). 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 Hill'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, Hill "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 Hill 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

Hill pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute an unspecified amount of cocaine base (crack), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1); 18 counts of distributing cocaine base were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement. Although the indictment did not specify the amount of cocaine base involved in the conspiracy, Hill stipulated to having been involved in the distribution of between 35 and 50 grams of cocaine base. Because she had a prior felony drug offense, Hill was sentenced to a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of ten years, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). Her appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. United States v. Hill, 58 Fed.Appx. 102 (6th Cir. January 13, 2003).

In support of her § 2255 motion, Hill alleges several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. She also alleges that she should receive credit for substantial assistance rendered within one year of her sentencing date. In a supplement to the original § 2255, Hill alleges that she is entitled to relief in light of the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004).

III. Discussion

A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the United States Supreme Court established a two-part standard for evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel:

First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the "counsel" guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.

Id. at 687.

To establish that her attorney was not performing "within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases," McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771 (1970), Hill must demonstrate that the attorney's representation "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. at 687-88. In judging an attorney's conduct, a court should consider all the circumstances and facts of the particular case. Id. at 690. Additionally, "a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption ...


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