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Medrano v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 27, 2017

NOE FARID MEDRANO, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil No. RWT-16-684

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Roger W. Titus United States District Judge

         Following a jury trial, Petitioner Noe Farid Medrano was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, use of communications device to facilitate narcotics trafficking, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b), and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C)-(D). He was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment. ECF No. 513. Now pending before the Court is Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [ECF No. 606], Petitioner's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [ECF No. 614], and Petitioner's Motion to Appoint Counsel [ECF No. 615].

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was prosecuted for crimes relating to his participation in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute significant quantities of cocaine and heroin in Maryland and other states between 2010 and 2012. ECF No. 635 at 2. As part of the conspiracy, Petitioner received approximately three and a half kilos of cocaine to distribute in exchange for money. Id. at 2-3. Petitioner was also involved in arranging supply runs for additional drugs and selling handguns. Id. at 3.

         On January 9, 2012, the grand jury returned a single-count Indictment charging Petitioner and seven other defendants with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and one kilogram or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. ECF No. 1. On January 30, 2012, the grand jury returned a single-count Superseding Indictment adding three additional defendants. On February 4, 2013, the grand jury returned a sixteen-count Second Superseding Indictment charging Petitioner with: conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and one or more kilograms of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count 1); use of communications device to facilitate narcotics trafficking, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b) (Counts 8, 10, 12); possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 (Count 9); and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 (Count 11).

         Following a four-week trial, a jury found Petitioner guilty of all charges in the Second Superseding Indictment. ECF No. 413. On August 27, 2013, this Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 120 months on Counts 1 and 9, 40 months on Counts 8, 10, and 12, and 60 months on Count 11, all to run concurrently. ECF No. 513 at 2. Petitioner filed his pro se Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [ECF No. 606] on March 9, 2016. On April 22, 2016, he filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [ECF No. 614] and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel [ECF No. 615]. For the reasons that follow, his Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted, and his Motion to Vacate and Motion for Appointment of Counsel will be denied.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Petitions filed pro se are construed liberally. 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. 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. See id.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [ECF No. 606]

         Petitioner raises four grounds in support of his § 2255 Motion, all alleging denial of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Petitioner alleges that counsel failed to: (1) investigate Petitioner's severe drug addiction; (2) advise Petitioner of his right to testify on his own behalf; (3) seek severance of Petitioner's trial; and (4) secure a favorable plea agreement. EFC No. 606.

         To evaluate ineffective assistance of counsel claims, courts use the two-pronged test articulated in Strickland v. Washington, 477 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), which examines both the performance of counsel and prejudice to defendant. Under the performance prong, a defendant must show that counsel's performance “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688. In making this determination, courts must evaluate the conduct at issue from counsel's perspective at the time and “indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. at 689; see also Lewis v. Wheeler, 609 F.3d 291, 312 (4th Cir. 2010) (cautioning that judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be “highly deferential.”).

         Under the prejudice prong, a defendant must show that counsel's performance prejudiced the defense such that, but for counsel's errors, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. The likelihood of a different outcome must be substantial. See Id. at 693 (holding that “it is not enough for the defendant to show that the errors had some conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.”). Counsel's performance must have resulted in such a breakdown in the adversarial process that it undermines confidence in the result of the proceeding. Id. at 696.

         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 ...


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