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Martin v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

March 20, 2018




         Petitioner Johnny Martin has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 761]. Petitioner supplemented the motion [Doc. 763] and the Government responded in objection to Petitioner's requested relief [Doc. 792]. The matter is now ripe for consideration. The Court has determined that Petitioner is not entitled to relief under § 2255, and therefore no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons set forth herein, Petitioner's § 2255 motion lacks merit and will be denied. Accordingly, No. 3:14-CV-482 will be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was convicted in this case of (1) conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute at least 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, at least fifty grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy; (2) aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute marijuana; (3) two counts of aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense; (4) possessing a firearm as a felon; (5) knowingly employing a person under the age of eighteen to commit a drug trafficking offense; (6) conspiring to commit money laundering; and (7) conducting a financial transaction affecting interstate commerce using proceeds from drug trafficking activity to purchase property [Docs. 315, 492].[1] The Court sentenced Martin to 720 months in prison [Doc. 672]. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. United States v. Martin, 516 F. App'x 433 (6th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S.Ct. 357 (2013).

         Now before the Court is Petitioner's § 2255 motion, and a supplement thereto, which allege claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, as well as other claims directed at the Court's rulings [Docs. 761, 777]. The Government responded in opposition [Doc. 792], and Petitioner filed a reply [Doc. 799].

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         The relief authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 “does not encompass all claimed errors in conviction and sentencing.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979). Rather, to obtain relief under § 2255, a petitioner must establish “(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 process invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). In other words, a petitioner cannot prevail unless he shows a “fundamental defect in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process.” Fair v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998). Under this standard, a petitioner “must clear a significantly higher hurdle [to obtain relief] than would exist on direct appeal.” Id. (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 166 (1982)).

         Moreover, a petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must satisfy a two-part test. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987); see also Huff v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 606 (6th Cir. 2013). First, he must establish, by identifying specific acts or omissions, that counsel's performance was deficient and that counsel did not provide “reasonable effective assistance, ” id., as measured by “prevailing professional norms, ” Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005). Counsel is presumed to have provided effective assistance, and petitioner bears the burden of showing otherwise. Mason v. Mitchell, 320 F.3d 604, 616-17 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (a reviewing 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 . . . the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy”) (internal citation omitted).

         Second, petitioner must demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for [counsel's acts or omissions], the result of the proceedings would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. “An error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the judgment.” Id. at 691; see also Smith v. Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 285-86 (2000).

         The Court agrees with the Government that Martin alleges two categories of claims: (1) claims which could have been litigated on appeal but were not; and (2) claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court will address each category of claims in turn.

         B. Claims Which Could Have Been Resolved By The Court of Appeals

         Martin argues that the Court's drug quantity determination for purposes of sentencing violated Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). Alleyne, however, does not apply retroactively to cases like Martin's that are already final because Alleyne merely adopted a new rule of criminal procedure. Teague v. Lane 489 U.S. 288 (1989). Therefore, Alleyne provides no ground for relief in this case.

         Petitioner has not attempted to excuse his procedural default here, and his (1) constructive-amendment, (2) jury-instruction, and (3) sentencing-error claims should thus be deemed unreviewable. In any event, as discussed below, Petitioner's claims are meritless.

         1. The Indictment Was Not Constructively Amended By The Jury Instructions

         Petitioner claims the Court's instructions to the jury constituted a constructive amendment of the Indictment. The Indictment stated that Martin had aided and abetted a codefendant, Lashonda Hall, in possessing with intent to distribute marijuana and possessing a firearm in furtherance of two drug trafficking offenses. The jury instructions for that offense did not specifically mention Hall. Thus, Martin argues that the instructions “permitted ...

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