United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE AND CORRECT SENTENCE
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF #126) AND DENYING
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 4, 2014, a jury found Defendant Darrell Johnson
guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Johnson
subsequently filed a post-trial motion for judgment of
acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial.
(See ECF #80.) In that motion, Johnson challenged
the sufficiency of the evidence against him and contended
that trial counsel was ineffective. This Court denied that
motion by order dated May 12, 2015. (See Order, ECF
#82.) Johnson raised his ineffective assistance claims on
direct appeal, and the Sixth Circuit rejected some of the
claims and determined that it could not rule on others.
See United States v. Johnson, 658 Fed.Appx. 236 (6th
Cir. 2016). Johnson has now filed a motion to vacate his
sentence. (See ECF #126.) He argues that trial
counsel was ineffective in several respects. For the reasons
explained below, the motion is DENIED.
general factual background of this case is set forth in the
Court's order denying Johnson's motion for judgment
of acquittal. (See ECF #82.) The Court incorporates
that Order into this Order and will not repeat the factual
background here. The Court sets forth in its analysis below
those facts necessary to understand the Court's
resolution of Johnson's current claims.
noted above, Johnson seeks relief on the ground that his
trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. In
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the
United States Supreme Court set forth a two-part test for
evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
First, a defendant must show that his counsel's
performance was deficient. See Id. at 687.
“This requires showing that counsel made errors so
serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment.” Id. 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.” Id.
satisfy the performance prong of Strickland, a
defendant “must identify the acts or omissions of
counsel that are alleged not to have been the result of
reasonable professional judgment.” Strickland,
466 U.S. at 690. A court's scrutiny of counsel's
performance is highly deferential. See id. at 689.
“[C]ounsel is strongly presumed to have rendered
adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the
exercise of reasonable professional judgment.”
Id. at 690. The burden is on the defendant to
overcome the presumption that the challenged action was sound
trial strategy. See id. at 689.
satisfy the prejudice prong of the Strickland test,
a defendant must show “a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of
the proceeding would have been different.” Id.
at 694. “This does not require a showing that
counsel's actions ‘more likely than not altered the
outcome, '” but “[t]he likelihood of a
different result must be substantial, not just
conceivable.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 112
(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 693).
first contends that trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to conduct an adequate pretrial investigation. Specifically,
Johnson argues that counsel “failed to inquire into the
source of the officers['] information that Mr. Johnson
resided at 19470 Winston Street.” (Mot., ECF #126 at
Pg. ID 1811.) At trial, one of the officers testified that he
located Johnson at the Winston Street residence by (1)
checking a license plate on a vehicle driven by Johnson, (2)
determining that the plate “came back” to the
Winston Street address, and (3) based upon that match, then
going to the Winston Street residence and finding Johnson
there. Johnson says that if that counsel had done an adequate
investigation, counsel would have discovered that the plates
in question were registered to someone else who did not live
at the Winston Street address. (Id.) Johnson says
that he is entitled to relief based upon counsel's
failure to discover this license plate registration
claim fails for at least two reasons. First, Johnson has not
presented any evidence that trial counsel had any reason to
question the officer's testimony that the plate on the
vehicle driven by Johnson “came back” to the
Winston Street address. For instance, Johnson does not state
in his affidavit that he told counsel that the license plate
in question was not registered to him. Johnson has not shown
that counsel had any particular reason to investigate the
registration of the license plates in question, and he has
not persuaded the Court that counsel was ineffective for
failing to discover, as Johnson claims, that the plate could
not have “come back” to the Winston Street
(and more importantly), Johnson has not demonstrated any
prejudice from counsel's alleged failure to discover that
the plates on the vehicle driven by Johnson were registered
to someone else who did not live at the Winston Street
address. Johnson did not contend at trial that he did not
live at that address. Instead, his defense was that while he
did live there, he did not reside in the particular
bedroom in which police found the firearm in question.
Because the fact that Johnson lived at the Winston Street
address was not in dispute at trial, Johnson did not suffer
any prejudice from his attorney's purported failure to
show that the license plates in question were registered to a
different person at a different address.
argues that his attorney failed to find an important defense
witness named Jessica Short. Johnson contends that Short
could have provided evidence that she lived in the room in
which police found the firearm in question and that Johnson