United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1), possession with intent to distribute less
than five grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of
a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c). Now pending before the Court are Petitioner's
Motions to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 99,
103] and Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 1651,
The All Writs Act [ECF No. 117].
February 23, 2010, Petitioner was riding in a car driven by
Alvoid Hamilton. ECF No. 112 at 2. Officers with the Glenarden
Police Department pulled over the car after observing that it
had expired registration tags. Id. During the stop,
the officers confirmed that the tags were expired, determined
that the driver did not have a valid driver's license,
and decided to impound the car. Id. While conducting
a subsequent inventory search prior to impoundment, the
officers discovered marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the
car. Id. They arrested Hamilton while Petitioner
fled on foot, and a pistol fell from Petitioner's
waistband as he ran from the police. Id. at 2-3.
Once Petitioner was apprehended, the officers found heroin
and cocaine base, as well as a large sum of cash in small
bills, on his person. Id. at 3.
September 1, 2010, a grand jury returned a three-count
indictment charging Petitioner with: (1) possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1); (2) possession with intent to distribute
less than five grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 841(a); and (3) possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924(c). ECF No. 103 at 1-2.
Court held a hearing on defense motion to suppress evidence
obtained during the traffic stop, in which the defense argued
that the traffic stop was conducted without reasonable
suspicion. The Court denied this motion. ECF No. 103 at 3. It
also denied a motion in limine to preclude the
testimony of an expert witness who would offer testimony
related to drug trafficking. ECF No. 112 at 3. Following a
trial in October 2011, a jury found Petitioner guilty on all
charges. ECF No. 103 at 3. This Court sentenced Petitioner to
a term of 96 months' imprisonment for the convictions on
Counts One and Two, to be served concurrently, followed by a
prison term of 60 months, to be served consecutively, on
Count Three. Id.
filed his pro se Motion to Vacate Sentence Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on April 14, 2014 [ECF No. 99], and
filed an Amended Motion on June 23, 2014 [ECF No. 103]. He
filed a Supplement to his Petition on March 6, 2015 [ECF No.
108]. On December 19, 2016, Petitioner filed a Motion Under
28 U.S.C. § 1651, The All Writs Act - For “New
Defense Not Available At the Time of Conviction” [ECF
filed pro se are liberally construed. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, a prisoner in custody may move the court to
vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence if he can prove by a
preponderance of the evidence 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; Miller
v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). If
the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of
the case, “conclusively show that [he] is entitled to
no relief, ” a hearing on the motion is unnecessary and
the claims raised in the motion may be dismissed summarily.
Petitioner's Motion to Vacate [ECF No. 99, 103]
noted above, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside,
or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 99],
an Amended Motion to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 [ECF No. 103], and a Supplement to the Amended
Motion to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255
[ECF No. 108] (hereinafter, “the § 2255
Motions”). The Court will consider the § 2255
raises six grounds in support of his § 2255 Motions,
claiming that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to
effective assistance of counsel at his suppression hearing,
at trial, and on direct appeal. Courts examine claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel under the two-prong test
set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
687 (1984). Under the performance prong, a defendant must
show that counsel's performance was deficient.
Id. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's
performance must be highly deferential.” Id.
at 689; see United States v. Terry, 366 F.3d 312,
317 (4th Cir. 2004). The alleged deficient performance must
be objectively unreasonable and “requires showing that
counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland,
466 U.S. at 689. The Court must evaluate the conduct at issue
from counsel's perspective at the time, and must
“indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance.” Id.
the prejudice prong, a defendant must show that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense, and that but for
counsel's errors, there is a reasonable probability that
the result of the proceeding would have been different.
Id. at 687, 694. Unless a defendant makes both
showings, the Court cannot find that the conviction resulted
from a breakdown in the adversarial process that renders the
result unreliable. Id. at 669. Finally, “there
is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance
claim to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to
address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes
an insufficient showing on one.” Id. at 697.
Ground One: Trial Counsel Allegedly Provided Ineffective
Assistance During the Proceedings on the Defense Motion to
first claims that his trial counsel, John McKenna, was
ineffective for failing to present evidence and argument to
support the claim that the initial car stop, which led to
Petitioner's arrest, violated the Fourth Amendment. ECF
No. 99 at 7. He first claims that counsel was ineffective for
failing to introduce evidence showing that the appearance of
the registration sticker was not sufficient for a finding of
reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. ECF No. 103
at 4. Second, he argues that trial counsel was
constitutionally ineffective because he failed to introduce
evidence of the police department's impoundment policy,
which would have demonstrated that the police were not
required to impound the car. ECF No. 99 at 8. Third,
Petitioner claims that trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to call Alvoid Hamilton, the driver of the car, as a
witness in the suppression hearing. Id. at 9-10. He
asserts that Hamilton would have provided testimony that
contradicted the Government's version of events,
id. at 9-10, and would have “greatly aided
Petitioner's case for suppression of the evidence
obtained as a result of the traffic stop, ” ECF No. 103
at 12. Fourth, Petitioner argues that his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to identify or interview a ...