United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
Christopher H. Steger, Magistrate Judge.
R. MCDONOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
8, 2013, Petitioner Dexter Pitts (“Petitioner”)
was sentenced to 188 months' imprisonment for possession
with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). (Doc. 33.) Following
Mr. Pitts's direct appeal of this judgment, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the
judgment on January 22, 2014. (Doc. 37.) On May 5, 2014,
Petitioner 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. 38.) For
the reasons that follow, the Court finds an evidentiary
hearing on the 2255 Motion is not necessary and the 2255
Motion is DENIED.
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 standard, 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). In order 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
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
raises an issue premised upon an “ineffective
assistance of counsel” argument. 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, i.e., prejudice. Thus, 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 ...