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Bright v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 7, 2019




         Martiez Bright has filed a pro se Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (Doc. No. 1), challenging an allegedly illegal sentence previously imposed by this court. See United States v. Bright, No. 3:12-cr-00091 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 8, 2016) (Judgment, Doc No. 54).[1] As explained below, the court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required and that the movant is not entitled to relief.


         In May 2012, a criminal complaint was lodged against the movant, charging him with knowingly possessing cocaine with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a public housing facility, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 860. (Crim. Doc. No. 1.) The grand jury returned an indictment shortly thereafter, which, in addition to the count alleged in the Complaint, asserted a second count, for being a previously convicted felon in possession of ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924. (Crim. Doc. No. 8.) The government then filed an Information Alleging Prior Felony Drug Convictions (“§ 851 Enhancement”), pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851(a)(1). (Crim. Doc. No. 10.) According to the government, the defendant's prior state drug-related convictions required enhancement of the defendant's sentence upon Count 1 of the Indictment, such that he would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without release.

         In November 2015, the court accepted the movant's Petition to Enter a Plea of Guilty (Crim. Doc. No. 45), pursuant to the terms of a written Plea Agreement (Crim. Doc. No. 46). Bright agreed to plead guilty to both counts in the Indictment in exchange for the government's agreement to move to strike the § 851 Enhancement. In addition, under Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the parties agreed to a sentence of 168 months, below the guideline range of 188-235 months, and six years of supervised release. (Crim. Doc. No. 46; see also Presentence Report, Crim. Doc. No. 60, at 27.) The court sentenced the defendant to 168 months as recommended by the parties. (Judgment, Crim. Doc. No. 54.)

         The pro se § 2255 motion was filed in this court on December 16, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 1, 2.) The government responded (Doc. No. 11); the movant filed a Reply (Doc. No. 12) and Motion to Supplement under Rule 60(b)(6), citing Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017) (Doc. No. 16), to which the government also responded (Doc. No. 18). The movant then filed a “Traverse.” (Doc. No. 22.)


         To be entitled to relief, a prisoner who moves to vacate his sentence under § 2255 must show that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255. To prevail on a § 2255 motion, a movant “must demonstrate the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.” Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855, 858 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)). Non-constitutional errors are generally outside the scope of § 2255 relief. United States v. Cofield, 233 F.3d 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2000). A movant can prevail on a § 2255 motion alleging non-constitutional error only by establishing a “fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice, or an error so egregious that it amounts to a violation of due process.” Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.2d 627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks and additional citation omitted)).

         As a general rule, any claims not raised on direct appeal are procedurally defaulted and may not be raised on collateral review unless the movant shows “cause” to excuse the procedural default and “actual prejudice” resulting from the alleged errors, United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 168 (1982) (citations omitted), or that he is “actually innocent.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998) (citations omitted). A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is not subject to the procedural-default rule, Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003), and may be raised in a collateral proceeding under § 2255, regardless of whether the movant could have raised the claim on direct appeal. Id.

         In addition, when the Supreme Court announces a new substantive rule of law after a habeas petitioner's conviction has become final on direct appeal, such a rule will apply retroactively to cases on collateral review, irrespective of exhaustion. Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348, 351 (2004); Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 328 (1987). If the Supreme Court decides a case recognizing a new right and the ruling is “made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review, ” a federal prisoner seeking to assert that right has one year from the date of the Supreme Court's decision within which to file his § 2255 motion. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3); Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 358-59 (2005).


         Although Bright purports to assert claims under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which held that the residual clause of that portion of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) defining the term “crime of violence, ” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), is unconstitutionally vague and, therefore, that imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause violates due process, he does not actually raise any arguments based on Johnson. Moreover, he was not sentenced under the ACCA, because he did not have three prior “serious drug offense” or “crime of violence” convictions.

         Bright nonetheless brings claims based on Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), in which the Supreme Court

counseled again that “a judge cannot go beyond identifying the crime of conviction to explore the manner in which the defendant committed that offense.” To comply with the Sixth Amendment, the sentencing court may not stray beyond the elements of the prior offense “to determine ...

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