United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. PHILLIPS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's pro
se Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(e) [doc. 620] and Petitioner's counseled Motion for
Relief from Final Judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) [doc. 624].
The government has responded to Petitioner's counseled
motion [doc. 628] and Petitioner has replied [doc. 629].
These matters are now ripe for the Court's review. For
the reasons below, Petitioner's Rule 59(e) and 60(b)
motions [docs. 620, 624] are DENIED.
and two co-defendants, Dennis Richardson and Jermaine Hughes,
were indicted in 2005 for various drug offenses and other
related offenses, including a conspiracy to distribute and to
possess with the intent to distribute both cocaine and
marijuana. Richardson and Hughes ultimately entered into plea
agreements with the United States [docs. 151, 274], but
Petitioner opted to proceed to trial. Following a 9-day jury
trial, Petitioner was convicted of: (1) conspiring to
distribute, and to possess with the intent to distribute, 5
or more kilograms of cocaine and a quantity of marijuana: (2)
conspiring to commit money laundering; and (3) three counts
of distributing more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. [Doc. 465].
Because of the quantity of cocaine involved, and
Petitioner's two prior felony drug convictions,
Petitioner was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. [Doc.
574]. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed
Petitioner's convictions and sentences. [Doc. 585].
Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari from the Supreme
Court, which was denied in February 2013. [Doc. 588].
relevance, at Petitioner's trial, co-defendants
Richardson and Hughes testified that Petitioner had supplied
them with both cocaine and marijuana for distribution.
Additionally, Richard and Kimberly Robinson both testified
that Petitioner supplied Richard with cocaine for
November 13, 2014, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate or set
aside his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc.
592]. In his motion, Petitioner raised one issue-that his
co-defendant, Richardson, had recanted his trial testimony,
and now stated that Petitioner was only involved in providing
him with marijuana for distribution, not cocaine. On October
23, 2017, this Court ordered the government to respond. [Doc.
608]. On December 8, 2017, after receiving an extension of
time from the Court, the government responded in opposition
to Petitioner's § 2255 motion. [Doc. 613].
Petitioner did not file a reply, and on January 3, 2018, the
Court denied the § 2255 motion. [Docs. 617, 618].
the Court assumed for purposes of its analysis that
Richardson's recantation was newly discovered evidence,
and found the § 2255 motion to be timely on this ground.
[Doc. 617 at 4]. The Court then explained the standard for
granting a new trial based on the recantation of trial
testimony, but concluded that the first factor-that the court
is “reasonably well satisfied” that the
witness' trial testimony was false-was lacking in this
case. [Id. at 5]. The undersigned district judge
noted that he had presided over Petitioner's trial and
heard Richardson's testimony, and concluded that
Richardson had testified truthfully at trial. [Id.
at 6]. The Court thus concluded that an evidentiary hearing
was unnecessary, and denied Petitioner's § 2255
motion. [Id. at 7].
Court further addressed whether a certificate of
appealability (“COA”) should be granted.
[Id.]. The Court quoted the statute governing the
issuance of a COA-28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2)-which requires
a “substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional
right.” The Court also quoted the seminal Supreme Court
decision relating to the applicable COA standard, Slack
v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473 (2000), which requires that a
Petitioner “demonstrate that reasonable jurists would
find the district court's assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong.”
[Id.]. The Court then concluded that “[a]fter
reviewing petitioner's claim, the Court finds that
reasonable jurists could not conclude that petitioner's
claim is adequate to deserve further review. Because
petitioner has failed to make a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right, a certificate of
appealability will not issue.” [Id. at 7-8].
the Court's denial of his § 2255 motion, on January
29, 2018, Petitioner filed a pro se Motion to Alter
or Amend the Judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). [Doc.
620]. In this motion, Petitioner asserts that the Court
should reconsider its denial of his § 2255 motion,
because he was “deprived of the opportunity to file a
reply to the Government's response to his 2255
motion[.]” [Id. at 2]. Petitioner states that,
when the Court issued its order denying his § 2255
motion, his counsel was in the process of filing a reply,
which “contained factual matters relevant to the
decision making process of the 2255 motion.”
on April 18, 2019, Petitioner, through counsel, filed a
motion for relief from judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
60(b). [Doc. 624]. Petitioner contends that this
Court erroneously denied a COA, based on the same reasons
that it denied the § 2255 motion. [Id. at 12].
Petitioner admits that the Court quoted the appropriate
standard, but asserts that the Court erred in “pointing
only to its merits opinion” to determine that
reasonable jurists would not debate Petitioner's claim.
[Id. at 13]. Specifically, Petitioner contends that
the Court's decision to deny his § 2255 motion
without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing is debatable.
[Id. at 13-15]. Petitioner cites to the Supreme
Court's decision in Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759
(2017), which Petitioner alleges “demonstrates that the
wrong standard was used to decline COA.” [Id.
at 15-16]. Alternatively, Petitioner argues that this Court
should treat his Rule 59(e) motion as a timely notice of
appeal. [Id. at 16-17].
government responds that: (1) this Court reasonably exercised
its discretion in declining to hold an evidentiary hearing;
(2) the Court properly declined to grant a COA, and
Buck is inapplicable, because that case applied to
the appellate court, rather than the district court; and (3)
the Court did not err in failing to rule on Petitioner's
Rule 59(e) motion, because it was a pro se motion
filed while Petitioner was represented by counsel, in
violation of this Court's local rules. [Doc. 628].
Petitioner, in reply, argues that his Rule 60(b) motion does
not attack the decision to deny § 2255 relief, or to
deny an evidentiary hearing, but merely attacks the order
declining to issue a COA. [Doc. 629 at 3-4]. Petitioner also
asserts that his Rule 59(e) motion should be construed as a
timely notice of appeal because it “lists the correct
case number, and argues that the judgment dismissing his
§ 2255 motion should be vacated because he was innocent
of an offense involving cocaine and he only dealt in
marijuana.” [Id. at 5]. Finally, Petitioner
contests the government's claim that he was represented
at the time that he filed his Rule 59(e) motion, and states
that “[t]he government's position defies the facts
that the motion was prepared by Mr. Corona, signed by Mr.
Corona, and mailed by Mr. Corona from prison to the district
court. The motion was clearly not prepared and filed by an
attorney but was filed by Mr. Corona[.]” [Id.
at 6 (citation omitted)].
Rule 60(b) Motion
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows a court to relieve a
party from a ...