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LANGSTON v. U.S.

June 27, 2000

BEVERLY LANGSTON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Beverly Langston ("Langston") brings this motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence. For the following reasons, I will deny Langston's motion.

I. Background

On May 28, 1997, Langston was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and distribution of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 (a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. On June 12, 1997, Langston entered a plea of not guilty to the counts in which she was charged. On July 31, 1997, Magistrate Judge Smith ordered that Langston's conditions of bail include drug counseling and/or treatment.

On September 10, 1997, the government filed a motion for a psychiatric examination of Langston. On September 12, 1997, Judge Gawthrop ordered that Langston undergo a prompt psychiatric examination to determine if she was competent to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her and to assist in her defense. On the same day, Judge Gawthrop severed Langston's case from her co-defendants' cases. On September 25, 1997, pursuant to the Court's order that Langston undergo a competency examination, Russell E. Phillips, M.D., conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Langston. In an October 2, 1997 report, Dr. Phillips opined that "Ms. Langston is competent to stand trial. She understands the charges against her, understands the consequences of conviction on these charges, and is capable of assisting her attorney in her own defense."

On February 10, 1998, the government requested a second psychiatric examination of Langston and on February 11, 1998, Judge Gawthrop ordered a second examination. Pursuant to the Court's order, on February 13, 1998, John S. O'Brien II, M.D., J.D., completed a psychiatric and substance abuse evaluation of Langston. In a February 16, 1998 report, Dr. O'Brien, concluded that Langston "is able to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against her and to participate and assist in her own defense. It is therefore my opinion that she is currently competent to stand trial."

Prior to jury selection, the government's counsel noted on the record that Langston was found competent after a psychiatric evaluation. Additionally, government's counsel confirmed that Troiani believed her client was prepared to proceed, Troiani was able to consult with Langston and Langston was able to assist in her own defense. See Tr. Feb. 18, 1998 at 3.

On February 23, 1998, a jury found Langston guilty on both counts (conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and distribution of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2). On May 21, 1998, Langston was sentenced by Judge Gawthrop to 100 months imprisonment, five years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $200.00. On June 1, 1998, Langston filed a notice of appeal. On January 11, 1999, the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. On March 8, 1999, Langston filed a pro se motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. After the untimely death of Judge Gawthrop, this case was reassigned to my docket. On November 16, 1999, I appointed counsel to represent Langston.

On February 25, 2000, I held oral argument on Langston's motion for a new trial with appointed counsel for Langston and counsel for the government present. At oral argument the parties agreed, on the record, that Langston's pro se motion for a new trial would be considered a § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence. See Tr. at 3. Langston's counsel argued that Langston's prior counsel was ineffective as she did not request a full competency hearing before trial and Langston was denied due process because of this failure to conduct a pre-trial competency hearing. See Tr. at 4-6. Langston's counsel argued only the issue regarding Langston's competency and left the court to evaluate Langston's additional claims, raised in her pro se motion for a new trial, on the papers filed by Langston and the government. See Tr. at 4. On April 10, 2000, I ordered the parties to submit additional briefing.

II. Standard

Section 2255 allows federal courts to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence of a prisoner:

in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress 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.

III. Discussion


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