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Pulley v. United States

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

August 8, 2019

MELVIN LEE PULLEY, Petitioner
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON DISTRICT JUDGE.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PETITIONER'S 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE (R.77)

          Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons set forth below, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Petitioner's motion to vacate (R.77) be DENIED and that the civil case be DISMISSED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Introduction

         Pursuant to a Rule 11 plea agreement, Petitioner pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591. (R.33, 35, 37.) A sentencing hearing was held and on May 30, judgment entered and Petitioner was sentenced to 190 months incarceration and 5 years supervised release. (R.47.) Petitioner did not file an appeal. After an extension of time was granted, Petitioner filed the instant motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (R.77.) After extensions of time were granted, Respondent filed a response on June 25, 2019. (R.88.) The instant motion has been referred to the undersigned (R.79) and is ready for report and recommendation.

         B. Law and Analysis

         To prevail on a § 2255 motion “‘a petitioner 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 section 2255 relief. United States v. Cofield, 233 F.3d 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2000). A movant can prevail on a section 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 omitted)). Ineffective assistance of counsel claims “may be brought in a collateral proceeding under § 2255 whether or not the petitioner could have raised the claim on direct appeal.” Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003).

         Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by the U.S. Supreme Court's rule pronounced in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In Strickland, the Court enunciated a two-pronged test that must be satisfied to prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. First, the movant must show that counsel's performance was deficient in that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Id. at 688. “Constitutionally effective counsel must develop trial strategy in the true sense - not what bears a false label of ‘strategy' - based on what investigation reveals witnesses will actually testify to, not based on what counsel guesses they might say in the absence of a full investigation.” Ramonez v. Berghuis, 490 F.3d 482, 488 (6th Cir. 2007). Second, the movant must show that he was prejudiced by the deficiency to such an extent that the result of the proceeding is unreliable. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. It is not enough to show that the alleged error “had some conceivable affect on the outcome of the proceeding.” Id. Rather, the movant must show that, but for counsel's errors, the result would have been favorably different. Id. at 693. Failure to make the required showing under either prong of the Strickland test defeats the claim. Id. at 700.

         The Supreme Court has explained that “[t]he 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.” Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 374 (1986). This language highlights the Supreme Court's consistent view that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a safeguard to ensure fairness in the trial process.

         In Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364 (1993), the Court clarified the meaning of “prejudice” under the Strickland standard, explaining:

Under our decisions, a criminal defendant alleging prejudice must show “that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” . . . Thus, an analysis focusing solely on the mere outcome determination, without attention to whether the ...

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