United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
Christopher H. Steger Judge.
R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jeffery Dale McClendon (“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. 68], and Petitioner filed
a reply [Doc. 72]. Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of
brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and was sentenced to 444 months of
imprisonment [Doc. 54]. Petitioner asserts his counsel was
constitutionally ineffective in violation of the Sixth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and that the
District Court violated the Sixth Amendment by giving him a
sentence in excess of the mandatory minimum. Finally,
Petitioner has filed a “Motion for Permission to
Supplement 2255 Motion” [Docs. 70, 71] which the Court
will construe as a motion to amend his 2255 Motion. For the
reasons that follow, the Court finds that an evidentiary
hearing on the 2255 Motion is not necessary, and the 2255
Motion [Doc. 66] and the motion to amend [Docs. 70, 71] shall
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. As a basis for doing so, he may
claim 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 Section
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 Section 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 Section 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 several issues premised upon an “ineffective
assistance of counsel” argument. Ineffective assistance
of counsel is a recognized constitutional violation that,
when adequately shown, warrants relief under Section 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 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 of lack
of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so,
that course should be followed.” Id.
Factual and Procedural Background
midnight on August 26, 2010, Petitioner, along with his
co-defendant, Christopher Turner, and a juvenile partner
attacked a man who was leaving work. The assailants hit the
victim with a gun, took his car keys and cell phone, and
forced him into the trunk of his own car, where he remained
confined for approximately eleven hours [Doc. 37, Plea
Agreement at ¶ 4]. During that time period, Petitioner
and his companions went to the victim's residence, stole
various items from him, and recruited their friends to help
them pawn the stolen items [Id.]. Using surveillance
videos from the pawn shop, among other things, Chattanooga
police officers determined that Petitioner and his two
companions had committed the carjacking [Id.]. When
confronted individually, all three participants confessed
their roles in the offense. In addition, they admitted having
committed another carjacking on August 28, 2010
[Id.]. On that occasion, Petitioner and his
companions assaulted a man at gunpoint and placed him in the
trunk of his car, but the victim ...