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Jackson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 14, 2017

JOHN JACKSON, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Respondent. Crim. No. BEL-97-246


          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         John Jackson has petitioned for a writ of coram nobis pursuant to the All Writs Acts, 28 U.S.C. §1651. ECF 1 (“Petition”). He claims his conviction in United States v Jackson, Criminal Action BEL-No. 97-246 (D. Md. 2000), was obtained through the use of false evidence and false testimony. ECF 1 at 6-8. Although Jackson has completed his term of incarceration as well as his term of supervised release, he contends that the “stain” of his conviction is a lifetime handicap that threatens his social standing and employment opportunities. Id. at 6.

         I. BACKGROUND

         After a jury trial in July and August of 2000, Jackson was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base. See United States v. Jackson, Criminal Action No. BEL-97-246. The court sentenced Jackson on November 17, 2000, to a term of 188 months of imprisonment and five years of supervised release. ECF 141 (Judgment).[1] Thereafter, Jackson noted an appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 142.

         I. Direct Appeal

         The United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit rejected Jackson's contention that the evidence was insufficient to convict him. It also rejected Jackson's contention that the government had created a fatal variance between the indictment and proof. The Court affirmed the conviction. See United States v. Jackson, 28 Fed.Appx. 291 (4th Cir. 2002); see also BEL-97-246, ECF 162; ECF 173. The Supreme Court denied Jackson's petition for a writ of certiorari. See Jackson v. United States, 123 S.Ct. 161 (2002).

         II. Motion to Vacate

         A. First Motion to Vacate

         On August 28, 2003, Jackson filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255. ECF 174. He claimed, inter alia, that the evidence was false and insufficient to sustain his conviction. See Civil Action No. BEL-03-2502 (D. Md. 2006).

         Specifically, Jackson argued that he was denied due process because the grand jury indicted him on the basis of evidence that proved inaccurate at trial, and but for this “false' testimony, he never would have been indicted. The court found Jackson's claims meritless and denied the motion to vacate on December 27, 2006. ECF 197; ECF 198; see also Jackson v. United States, 473 F.Supp.2d 640, 643 (D. Md. 2006).

         In denying the motion to vacate, the Honorable Benson E. Legg described the procedural background of the case. He recounted that on June 27, 1997, a federal grand jury handed down a five-count indictment against Jackson and three codefendants: Eric Batson; James Kane; and Leroy Yuman. Count I charged the defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (“crack”), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 846. Jackson was not named in Counts II-V, which charged individual acts of distribution. 473 F.Supp.2d at 642.4 From June 1999 to March 2000, Jackson and the government explored a plea bargain and, after the discussions failed, trial was scheduled for July 31, 2000. Judge Legg wrote, 473 F.Supp.2d at 642:

As was customary in the District of Maryland and elsewhere, the original indictment did not allege a drug quantity. On June 26, 2000, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey. On July 20, 2000, the government obtained a superseding indictment that specified the drug quantity (more than five kilograms of cocaine and fifty grams of crack) attributable to the conspiracy charged in Count I. Other than this addition, and the deletion of the names of the co-conspirators who had pleaded guilty, the superseding indictment was identical to the conspiracy count in the original indictment.[ ]

         Jackson then moved for a continuance, arguing that the government had “broadened” its prosecution. The court heard argument and denied the motion, finding that the superseding indictment did not raise any additional factual or legal issues and that Jackson would not be prejudiced by proceeding to trial as scheduled. Id.

         In his decision rejecting post conviction relief, Judge Legg ruled that because Jackson did not appeal the issue, he was procedurally barred from raising it in his post conviction petition. Contrary to Jackson's claim that there was new evidence to demonstrate his innocence, Judge Legg found that the “new” evidence consisted of the grand jury transcripts that counsel had used to cross-examine the government's witnesses, and this evidence did not establish Jackson's innocence. Id. at 643. Counsel had brought the grand jury testimony to the petit jury's attention, and they nonetheless convicted Jackson. Id. Further, Judge Legg noted that, even if Jackson's claim was not procedurally defaulted, it lacked merit because a conviction typically cannot be ...

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