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United States v. Jones

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

July 23, 2018

TAQUANE M. JONES, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Taquane M. Jones' (“Defendant”) motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 67.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

         I. Background

         On November 19, 2015, the police conducted a search of a residence located at 606 Green Street, Flint, Michigan. Defendant was the only individual present at the residence during the execution of the search warrant. (ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 2.) While searching the residence, officers discovered - among other items - the following: (1) a firearm; (2) quantities of controlled substances, consistent with distribution - including heroin and cocaine base; and (3) an EBT card belonging to Defendant. (Id. at Pg ID 2-3.) Consequently, Defendant was arrested and charged with: (1) felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); (2) possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and (3) possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). (ECF No. 9 at Pg ID 18-19.)

         On November 20, 2015, Defendant was appointed a federal defender, and on November 24, 2015, Bryan J. Sherer entered his appearance. (ECF Nos. 3 & 5.) On January 7, 2016, Defendant indicated at what was intended to be an arraignment that he wanted new counsel, and Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis ordered Mr. Sherer to file a motion to withdraw. After a hearing on the motion to withdraw, on January 18, 2016, Jerome Sabbota began representing Defendant. (ECF No. 16.)

         At the Plea Hearing scheduled for July 20, 2016, Defendant made an oral motion for withdrawal of attorney which this Court granted in a written order. (ECF No. 38.) On July 21, 2016, Barry A. Wolf entered an appearance on behalf of Defendant and continued to represent Defendant through the conclusion of trial. (ECF No. 39.) On November 2, 2016, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts. (ECF No. 46.) In response, on November 15, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal or in the Alternative Order for a New Trial. (ECF No. 52.) On May 3, 2017, this Court held a motion hearing and denied the motion in a written order. (ECF No. 63.) Defendant's sentencing hearing was also scheduled on May 3, 2017. The Court imposed a sentence of 110 months for each count, to be served concurrently. (ECF No. 64.)

         On August 21, 2017, Defendant filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for (1) failure to file a notice of appeal, (2) failure to object to the underrepresentation of African Americans on the jury pool, and (3) “sundry instances of ineffectiveness.” (ECF No. 67.) The Government filed a response on September 22, 2017. (ECF No. 71.) On April 18, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to amend his petition and extend time to file a reply. (ECF Nos. 72 & 73.) On April 20, 2018, this Court granted Defendant's request for an extension of time and allowed Defendant until May 21, 2018 to file a reply. Defendant filed a reply brief on May 29, 2018. (ECF No. 75.)

         II. Relevant Case Law

         “[I]n order to obtain relief under § 2255 on the basis of a constitutional error, the record must reflect an error of constitutional magnitude that had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the proceedings.” United States v. Boyd, 259 F.Supp.2d 699, 708 (6th Cir. 2003). One often cited basis for § 2255 relief is the violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

         In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Supreme Court developed a two-prong test that a petitioner must satisfy to prevail on a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. An ineffective assistance of counsel claim has two components. First, a petitioner must show that counsel's performance was deficient and the deficiency prejudiced the defense. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. To establish deficient representation, a petitioner must demonstrate that counsel's representation “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688. Second, the movant must show that the deficiency caused prejudice to such an extent that but for the constitutionally deficient representation, there is a “reasonable probability” that the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694. It is insufficient to show that the alleged error “had some conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.” Id. at 693. Failure to make the required showing under either prong of the Strickland test defeats the claim. Id. at 700.

         In Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364 (1993), the Court stated, “the right to the effective assistance of counsel is recognized not for its own sake, but because of the effect it has on the ability of the accused to receive a fair trial. Absent some effect of challenged conduct on the reliability of the trial process, the Sixth Amendment guarantee is generally not implicated.” Lockhart, 506 U.S. at 368; see also Spearman v. United States, 43 Fed.Appx. 906, 908 (6th Cir. Aug. 8, 2002) (“The essence of an ineffective-assistance claim is that counsel's unprofessional errors so upset the adversarial balance between defense and prosecution that the trial was rendered unfair and the verdict rendered suspect.”). “The reviewing court's scrutiny of counsel's performance is highly deferential, Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689; indeed, ‘the court should recognize that counsel is strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.'” McQueen v. Scroggy, 99 F.3d 1302, 1311 (6th Cir. 1996).

         Finally, if the Court determines that “the motion, together with the files and record in this case ‘conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief,' the motion may be resolved without an evidentiary hearing.” Boyd, 259 F.Supp.2d at 709; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255; Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts.

         III. Analysis

         According to Defendant, he informed Mr. Wolf of his desire to appeal his sentence and conviction, but Mr. Wolf advised him that if he appealed, he risked being resentenced as an Armed Career Criminal, which would impose a higher sentence. (ECF No. 67 at Pg ID 599-600.) Next, Defendant argues that Mr. Wolf was ineffective because he failed to argue that the lack of adequate representation of African Americans in the jury pool was the result of systematic exclusion. (Id. at Pg ID 601.) Finally, Defendant argues that Mr. Wolf rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by: (1) failing to object to improper prosecutorial comments in opening and closing arguments; (2) failing to ...

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