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Martin v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 20, 2015

PAULETTE MARTIN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. RWT-04-00235

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Pending is Petitioner Paulette Martin's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Upon review of the papers filed, and for the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Martin's Motion.

BACKGROUND

Martin was the ringleader of a sprawling drug distribution conspiracy. After a lengthy trial, she was convicted by a jury for her role in that conspiracy on August 31, 2006. ECF No. 935. On December 19, 2006, this Court sentenced Martin to life in prison.[1] ECF No. 1059. The Fourth Circuit upheld her conviction and sentence. ECF No. 1480. On May 29, 2012, Martin filed a Motion for Retroactive Application of Sentencing Guidelines to Crack Cocaine Offense. ECF No. 1518. By order dated August 8, 2012, the Court notified Martin of its intent to construe her motion as a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 1539. Martin responded, requesting that the motion not be construed as a § 2255 motion. ECF No. 1548. After a flurry of correspondence, the Court on November 7, 2013 again ordered that Martin's original motion would be construed as a § 2255 motion, and granted Martin additional time to advise the Court as to how she wished to proceed. ECF No. 1657. Martin submitted correspondence again requesting that her original motion not be construed as a § 2255 motion, and requesting 120 days to file a proper § 2255 motion. ECF No. 1670. The Court directed the Government to respond within 30 days to Martin's request for 120 days to file a § 2255 motion, ECF No. 1669, but the government failed to do so. Accordingly, Martin filed a Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on July 21, 2014.[2] ECF No. 1697. The Government responded on October 22, 2014. ECF No. 1719.

In her Motion for Retroactive Application of the Sentencing Guidelines, Martin seems to assert that she is entitled to a lower sentence in light of DePierre v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2225 (2011).[3] ECF No. 1518. In her Motion to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Martin argues that this Court's sentence is contrary to Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). ECF No. 1697 at 14. She further argues that she suffered ineffective assistance of counsel.[4] Id. at 40. None of Martin's arguments has merit.

ANALYSIS

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in custody may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, "claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), the Court may deny the motion without a hearing if "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); see, e.g., Zelaya v. United States, No. DKC 05-0393, 2013 WL 4495788, at *2 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2013).

I. Martin's Claims Regarding Sentencing

A. DePierre claim

In her Motion for Retroactive Application of the Sentencing Guidelines, Martin seems to assert that the Supreme Court's decision in DePierre could possibly be a basis for a lower sentence, and asks the Court "that this motion be granted and the time clock be stopped until all relative submissions relating to defendants appeals and resentencing is completed." ECF No. 1518. Martin's faith in DePierre is misplaced. The Supreme Court held in DePierre that the term "cocaine base" in 18 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) referred to all forms of cocaine that could chemically be described as basic cocaine, and not just the form commonly known as "crack cocaine." DePierre, 131 S.Ct. at 2227-28. DePierre's holding means that more substances are considered "cocaine base, " and are thus subject to harsher penalties for possession with intent to distribute, relative to quantity, than powder cocaine. In other words, the effect of DePierre is to broaden, not narrow, the subset of cocaine substances that are subject to higher sentences.[5] Thus, application of DePierre could only lead to a higher sentence for a defendant. It is of no use to a defendant seeking to lower her sentence.

B. Alleyne Claim

Alleyne also does not give Martin sentencing relief. Alleyne held that "facts that increase mandatory minimum sentences must be submitted to the jury." Alleyne, 133 S.Ct. at 2163 (emphasis added). Similarly, any fact that increases the maximum sentence must be submitted to a jury. Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000).

Here, the jury found that Martin was responsible for possession with intent to distribute at least 1 kilogram of heroin and 5 kilograms of cocaine. Those facts, properly found by the jury and not the Court, were each independently enough to raise her maximum possible sentence to life in prison.[6] See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). To the extent the Court determined Martin was responsible for a higher quantity of drugs, that finding only affected the calculation of her sentencing guidelines range, not the statutory minimum or maximum sentence. Facts that affect only sentencing guideline calculations do not need to be submitted to a jury. See Alleyne, 133 S.Ct. ...


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