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Davis v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

September 19, 2017

KORRIE LADALE DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HARRY S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“2255 Motion”) and a motion to amend the 2255 Motion [Doc. 38] filed by federal prisoner, Korrie Ladale Davis (“Petitioner”) [Doc. 32].[1] Respondent United States of America (the “Government”) filed a response in opposition to each motion [Doc. 35 & 41], and Petitioner filed a reply [Doc. 36]. For the reasons stated below, both motions will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October 2012, a federal grand jury charged Petitioner with conspiring to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) and with seven counts of distributing cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) [Doc. 1]. Pursuant to a written plea agreement filed January 29, 2013, that specifically referenced Petitioner's increased statutory penalty resulting from at least one prior drug felony conviction, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Count One on February 19, 2013, with a bargain that the other charges would be dismissed at sentencing [Docs. 14, 21-24]. As pertinent, the Government also filed a notice of its intent to use Petitioner's November 22, 1999 felony drug conviction to mandate an increased statutory punishment pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 (“§ 851 Notice”) on February 19, 2013, the same day- but before-Petitioner entered his guilty plea to Count One [Doc. 20].

         In his plea agreement and during his plea colloquy, Petitioner acknowledged an appropriate disposition of the case could be up to the increased statutory maximum sentence. As he was determined to be a career offender, Petitioner's criminal history category was VI and the resulting sentence range under the applicable 2012 advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”) was 188 to 235 months [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶¶ 61, 100; see also Doc. 26 at Page ID # 67]. Petitioner successfully argued the career offender enhancement was greater than necessary, and the Court granted Petitioner's request for a below-Guidelines sentence. Petitioner was sentenced to 160 months' imprisonment on May 29, 2013 [Doc. 30].

         Petitioner did not appeal, so his conviction became final at the expiration of the time for seeking such review, June 12, 2013. Petitioner claims he timely placed his § 2255 motion into the prison mail system for filing on June 6, 2014 [See Docs. 32, 32-1, & 36]. Some two years later, in 2016, Petitioner filed a motion with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for authorization to file a second or successive motion to vacate while his 2255 Motion was still pending with this Court. Because Petitioner's 2255 Motion was still pending, the Sixth Circuit directed that the motion for authorization to file a second or successive motion to vacate be treated as a motion to amend the 2255 Motion [Doc. 37]. Both motions are now ripe.

         II. STANDARDS

         A. Threshold Standards

         A prisoner in federal custody may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 “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 court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Relief under § 2255 is limited, however, to: (1) errors involving lack of jurisdiction; (2) constitutional violations; and (3) those non-constitutional errors that constitute “fundamental defect[s] which inherently result[] in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962), quoted in Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 348-49 (1994); see also United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979).

         Rule 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

         B. Standard for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner raises ineffective assistance of counsel issues. 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 v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 606 (6th Cir. 2013). 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).

         The 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 . . . strategy.”

Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)).

         Even if 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 have been different.” McPhearson v. United States, 675 F.3d 553, 563 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694).

         Although 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 of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed.” Id.

         III. ...


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