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Moore v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

May 26, 2015



S. THOMAS ANDERSON, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Amended Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence of Joseph William Moore a/k/a Jeremiah Isaih ("§ 2255 Motion"), filed April 6, 2015. (ECF No. 19). Moore, Bureau of Prisons register number XXXXX-XXX, is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida. Moore asks the Court to vacate both his conviction and his sentence. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Moore's § 2255 Motion.


On June 30, 2009, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Moore with three counts: (1) interference with commerce by threats or violence - robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951; (2) use of a firearm during and in relation to a robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (3) bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). On August 6, 2009, the Court granted the Defendant's Motion for a Mental Evaluation in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4241 after defense counsel came to believe that Moore was suffering with mental health problems. ( United States v. Joseph Moore, No. 2:09-cr-20232-STA (W.D. Tenn.), ECF Nos. 22, 27). After two weeks of evaluation and observation from September 21 to November 4, 2009, a forensic psychologist opined that Mr. Moore was competent to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and was able to assist properly in his defense. The Court received the Forensic Evaluation on or about November 30, 2009. At a report-date hearing on December 22, 2009, Moore requested a change-of-plea hearing (ECF No. 28), which the Court conducted on January 12, 2010. (ECF No. 29). At the hearing, with leave of the Court, Moore entered a plea of guilty as to Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the indictment. (Order on Change of Plea, ECF No. 30). On April 27, 2010, the Court sentenced Moore to a term of 216 Months as to Counts 1 and 3, to be served concurrently, and a term of 84 months as to Count 2, to be served consecutively, for a total term of 300 months, followed by a 3-year period of supervised release. (Redacted Judgment, ECF No. 39).

Moore began submitting letters and "motions" to the Court and the Clerk on October 18, 2010. These documents were filed on Moore's criminal docket. (ECF Nos. 41-44, 46-51). Most of the documents were incomprehensible, but they arguably sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On January 19, 2012, in response to an order of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, this Court vacated a previous order which barred pro se filings and directed Moore to notify the Court as to whether his motions and letters sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 59).

Moore eventually did so, and the Clerk docketed his § 2255 Motion on the Court's civil docket. Moore's official "Pro Se Complaint" was docketed on October 21, 2013 ( Moore v. United States, No. 2:13-cv-02818-STA-cgc (W.D. Tenn.), ECF No. 1), but several of Moore's previous "motions" filed after judgment in his criminal case were also docketed in his § 2255 case. Along with these five motions and his Pro Se Complaint, Moore also filed several other motions, letters, and "clarifications." After Moore filed a petition for writ of mandamus, the Sixth Circuit denied his petition but suggested that the district court should work expeditiously to resolve Moore's case. Upon review of the Moore's criminal and civil dockets, this Court could not determine exactly what relief Moore was requesting through his § 2255 Motion. Therefore, it denied all pending "motions" without prejudice to refile a comprehensive § 2255 Motion. (ECF No. 16). Moore responded by filing another petition for writ of mandamus, ostensibly appealing the Court's order. ( See ECF No. 17). Moore also "responded" to this Court's order, arguing that the ruling had "set the district court in position to dismiss any § 2255 filing." (ECF No. 18). Moore then filed his Amended Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on the official form on April 6, 2015. (ECF No. 19). Four days later, Moore filed a Supplement to his § 2255 Motion, in which he restates his positions. (ECF No. 20). Finally, Moore filed a "Motion to Amend, " in which he argued that his § 2255 Motion was filed on January 24, 2011, rather than October 18, 2013, the date reflected on Moore's civil docket. (ECF No. 21).


Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a),

[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States... or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.[1]

To obtain relief under § 2255, Moore must show "(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid."[2] Moore claims that his plea was not given voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently, that he was not competent to understand the proceedings against him, and that his representation was constitutionally deficient. He also claims that his sentence was "excessive." For clarity, the Court addresses these arguments in a different order than that presented by Moore.


I. Statute of Limitations

Section 2255 imposes a one-year period of limitation, which runs from the latest of the following:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.[3]

Furthermore, "for purposes of collateral attack, a conviction becomes final at the conclusion of direct review."[4] Moore's conviction became final on May 5, 2010.[5] He did not appeal. Instead, as noted above, he began filing letters and motions on his criminal docket in October of 2010. After the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals requested that this Court respond to a petition for writ of mandamus filed by Moore, this Court vacated an order striking pro se filings, denied a motion for enlargement of time to appeal, and directed Moore to notify the Court whether his motions sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[6] Moore notified the Court that all of the filings in his criminal case were "§ 2255 as far as possible."[7] Thus, for the purposes of ruling on this Motion, the Court assumes that Moore has timely filed his § 2255 Motion and analyzes the merits of his claims.

II. Grounds for Relief

A. Moore's Competency During the Proceedings

Moore's second stated ground for relief is that "the court and the people associated with this case acted prematurely in determining that defendant was competent and capable of affectively [sic] assisting in his defense."[8] Moore claims that at his change-of-plea hearing, "evidence showed that [he] was suffering and that these unrevealed diagnoses had direct bearing on his ability to perceive and act with reality."[9] Moore states that "the court should not have accepted [his] plea while he was not taking his anti-psychotic medicine."[10] Thus, essentially, Moore is arguing that his guilty plea was not made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.

First, the constitutional test for competency to enter a plea is the same as the test for standing trial.[11] The test requires that a defendant "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding-and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."[12] The Court considers several factors in determining a defendant's competence, "including evidence of a defendant's irrational behavior, [the defendant's] demeanor at trial, and any prior medical opinion on competence to stand trial.'"[13] The Court's "determination of competency is a factual finding entitled to a presumption of correctness, and can only be refuted by clear and convincing evidence."[14]

Even assuming that Moore's factual statements are true, he has not shown that his alleged mental illness prevented him from having a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him. A forensic psychologist opined that Moore was competent. At his plea hearing, Moore represented multiple times that although he had not been taking a prescribed "psychotic medication, " he understood the proceedings and the charges against him and wanted to move forward. He also stated that he had discussed the plea with his attorney. After the Court inquired whether Moore was taking any type of ...

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