United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
R. MCDONOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Martez Mitchell (“Petitioner”), a federal
prisoner, timely filed a pro se motion to vacate,
set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 (the “2255 Motion”) (Doc.
The government has responded (Doc. 55), and Petitioner filed
a reply (Doc. 56). Petitioner was convicted by a jury for
possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D)
and for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(i). Petitioner asserts his trial counsel was
constitutionally ineffective in violation of the Sixth
Amendment of the United States Constitution. For the reasons
that follow, the Court finds an evidentiary hearing is not
necessary and will DENY Petitioner's motion.
STANDARDS OF LAW
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a federal prisoner may make a
motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his judgment of
conviction and sentence, if he claims that the sentence was
imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the
United States; that the court lacked jurisdiction to impose
the sentence; or that the sentence is in excess of the
maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to
collateral attack. As a threshold, to obtain post-conviction
relief under § 2255, a motion must allege: (1) an error
of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside
the federal statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law
so fundamental as to render the entire criminal proceeding
invalid. Mallett v. United States, 334 F.3d 491,
496-97 (6th Cir. 2003); Moss v. United States, 323
F.3d 445, 454 (6th Cir. 2003).
petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating an error of
constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and
injurious effect or influence on the criminal proceedings.
Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 353 (1994); Brecht
v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637-38 (1993). To obtain
collateral relief under § 2255, a petitioner must clear
a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct
appeal. United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152 (1982).
4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the
United States District Courts requires a district court to
summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion if “it plainly
appears from the face of the motion, the attached exhibits,
and the record of the prior proceedings that the movant is
not entitled to relief.” See also Pettigrew v.
United States, 480 F.2d 681, 684 (6th Cir. 1973)
(“A motion to vacate sentence under § 2255 can be
denied for the reason that it states “only bald legal
conclusions with no supporting factual allegations.”)
(quoting Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 19
(1963)). If the motion is not summarily dismissed under Rule
4(b), Rule 8 requires the court to determine, after a review
of the answer and the records of the case, whether an
evidentiary hearing is required. If a petitioner presents a
factual dispute, then “the habeas court must hold an
evidentiary hearing to determine the truth of the
petitioner's claims.” Huff v. United
States, 734 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 333 (6th
Cir. 2007)). An evidentiary hearing is not required “if
the petitioner's allegations cannot be accepted as true
because they are contradicted by the record, inherently
incredible, or conclusions rather than statements of
fact.” Valentine, 488 F.3d at 333 (quoting
Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th
Standard for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
motion asserts that he received ineffective assistance of
counsel. Ineffective assistance of counsel is a recognized
constitutional violation that, when adequately shown,
warrants relief under § 2255. The two-prong test set
forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687
(1984), governs claims of ineffective assistance of counsel
raised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Huff, 734
F.3d at 606. That test provides that, to demonstrate a
violation of the Sixth Amendment right to effective
assistance of counsel, “a defendant must establish that
his attorney's performance was deficient and that the
deficient performance prejudiced the defense.”
Id. (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687).
first prong requires a petitioner to show his attorney's
performance was deficient by demonstrating that counsel's
“representation fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688.
Stated another way, the petitioner must show “that
counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 687.
The Supreme Court “has declined to articulate specific
guidelines for appropriate attorney conduct and instead [has]
emphasized that the proper measure of attorney performance
remains simply reasonableness under prevailing professional
norms.” Huff, 734 F.3d at 606 (alterations in
original) (quoting Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510,
521 (2003)). A reviewing court must be “highly
deferential” to counsel's performance, because
[a] fair assessment of attorney performance requires that
every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of
hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's
challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from
counsel's perspective at the time. Because of the
difficulties inherent in making the evaluation, 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 that,
under the circumstances, the challenged action “might
be considered sound trial strategy.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v.
Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)).
a petitioner is successful in overcoming that presumption, he
must still satisfy the second prong of the
Strickland test-prejudice. A petitioner must show
not only that his counsel's representation was
objectively unreasonable, but also that he was prejudiced by
counsel's deficiency because there exists “a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.” McPhearson v. United
States, 675 F.3d 553, 563 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694).
the Strickland Court emphasized that both prongs
must be established in order for the petitioner to meet his
burden, it held there is no reason for a court deciding an
ineffective assistance claim to approach the inquiry in the
same order or even to address both components of the inquiry.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697. “If it is easier
to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground ...