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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ROBERT D. JACKSON, Defendant-Movant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTIONS UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE (DOC. NOS 57, 63, 64), ORDER DISMISSING CIVIL CASE NO. 16-12858 AND ORDER DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          DENISE PAGE HOOD CHIEF JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 17, 2014, Defendant pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants on or about June 1, 2010, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 846. At the time, Defendant agreed that: (a) he was a career offender because of prior convictions for assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and attempted delivery of a controlled substance; and (b) his applicable range pursuant to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) was 188-235 months, with a mandatory 60 month sentence. Defendant's Rule 11 plea agreement provided that he could not appeal his sentence if the sentence did not exceed the maximum term under the Guidelines (235 months). (Doc. No. 39, Para. 7). On May 21, 2015, the Court sentenced Defendant to 120 months in prison for one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. (Doc. No. 49).

         On June 5, 2015, Defendant filed a Notice of Appeal concerning his sentence. (Doc. No. 50). On October 7, 2015, Defendant's appeal was dismissed by the Sixth Circuit due to the appeal waiver in his Rule 11 plea agreement. On August 3, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, followed by amendments on February 14, 2017 and March 13, 2017. (Doc Nos. 57, 63, & 64). The motion to vacate was stayed for several months pending a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). The Government filed a response to Defendants Section 2255 Motion on May 19, 2017, after the stay was lifted. (Doc. No. 66). Defendant filed replies on June 8, 2017 and June 12, 2017. (Doc. Nos. 67 & 68).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Section 2255 authorizes a federal prisoner to move the district court to vacate a sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Motions brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are subject to a one-year limitations period established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Dunlap v. United States, 250 F.3d 1001, 1004-05 (6th Cir. 2001). The AEDPA established a one-year limitations period for § 2255 motions, generally running from “the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). When a movant does not pursue a direct appeal to the court of appeals, the conviction becomes final on the date the time for filing such an appeal expires. Sanchez-Castellano v. United States, 358 F.3d 424, 428 (6th Cir. 2004). In order to prevail in a § 2255 motion, a petitioner “must allege three bases: (1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside of the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” Weinberger v. United States, 268 F.3d 346, 351 (6th Cir. 2001).

         The court of appeals typically will not review a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal except in rare cases where the error is apparent from the existing record. United States v. Lopez-Medina, 461 F.3d 724, 737 (6th Cir. 2006). Under the Sixth Amendment, a defendant has a right to “have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” U.S. Const. Amend. VI. A defendant under the Sixth Amendment has a right to “reasonably effective assistance of counsel.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). In Strickland, the Supreme Court articulated a two prong test for ineffective counsel:

First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the “counsel” guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction . . . resulted from a breakdown of the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.

Id. “There is a strong presumption that legal counsel is competent.” United States v. Osterbrock, 891 F.2d 1216, 1220 (6th Cir. 1989). In addition, a “reviewing court must give a highly deferential scrutiny to counsel's performance.” Ward v. United States, 995 F.2d 1317, 1321 (6th Cir. 1993). “The reasonableness of counsel's performance is to be evaluated from counsel's perspective at the time of the alleged error and in light of all the circumstances.” Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 384 (1986). “The defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. Counsel is not required to raise futile challenges in order to avoid a claim of ineffective assistance. McQueen v. Scroggy, 99 F.3d 1302, 1328 (6th Cir. 1996).

         Defendant alleges that the Guidelines used to sentence him are incorrect and he is actually innocent of being a career offender. He also argues that his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment was violated because his counsel did not raise an argument regarding the constitutionality of his sentence on appeal and did not explain the consequences of Defendant's appeal waiver.

         B. Defendant was a Career Offender under the Guidelines

         1. Johnson Analysis

         Defendant alleges that the Guidelines range used to sentence him was incorrect because he is not a career offender. Under the Guidelines, a defendant is considered to be a career offender if “(1) the defendant was at least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has at least two ...


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