The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.
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.
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 November 5, 1997, Langston was placed at Eagleville
Hospital, a residential drug treatment program, and she was
discharged on December 12, 1997. After her discharge from
Eagleville Hospital, Langston was placed in a halfway house.
Judge Gawthrop's order that Langston was to remain at the halfway
house for a minimum of ninety days, Langston left the halfway
house after one night. On February 6, 1998, Langston's trial
counsel, Doloras Troiani, Esq. ("Troiani"), petitioned the court
to withdraw as counsel. On the same day, after a conference call,
Judge Gawthrop ordered that Troiani's motion to withdraw was
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.
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 . . .