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McCoy v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 16, 2017

JEFFREY JOSEPH MCCOY, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. RWT-10-0536

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROGER W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Following 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].

         BACKGROUND

         On February 23, 2010, Petitioner was riding in a car driven by Alvoid Hamilton. ECF No. 112 at 2.[1] 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.

         On 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.

         The 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.

         Petitioner 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 No. 117].[2]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Petitions 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. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Petitioner's Motion to Vacate [ECF No. 99, 103]

         As 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 Motions together.

         Petitioner 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.

         Under 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.

         A. Ground One: Trial Counsel Allegedly Provided Ineffective Assistance During the Proceedings on the Defense Motion to Suppress Evidence.

         Petitioner 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 ...


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