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United States v. Staten

January 18, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LAMAR STATEN.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

SYNOPSIS

In this criminal matter, Defendant was charged with three counts, alleging violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii), 922(g)(1), and 924(c). His arrest and conviction stemmed from a traffic stop, in which officers seized, inter alia, a weapon and controlled substances. After trial, a jury found him guilty on all counts.*fn1 The Court then sentenced him on February 25, 2005. Defendant appealed, and the District Court's judgment was affirmed by Order dated June 2, 2006. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Habeas Corpus Motion, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

OPINION

I. Applicable Standards

A district court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a Section 2255 motion if the motion, files, and records show conclusively that the defendant is not entitled to relief. United States v. Ritter, No. 02-2604, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 5692, at *4 (3d Cir. Mar. 26, 2004). Under that standard, a hearing is unnecessary in this case, and I will dispose of the Motion on the record.

Relief is available under Section 2255 only under exceptional circumstances, when the claimed errors of law are "a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice," or "an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure." Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428, 82 S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed. 2d 417 (1962).

Finally, I am "to give a liberal construction to pro se habeas petitions."

United States v. Brierley, 414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969).

II. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Defendant claims that counsel was ineffective in several respects: 1) counsel at a suppression hearing failed to subpoena a witness, and failed to inform Defendant that his civilian clothes were unavailable to him at the hearing; and 2) trial counsel did not properly deal with Defendant's removal from the voir dire process.

In order to obtain relief on such claims, a defendant must demonstrate both that counsel's performance was deficient, and that the deficiency caused him prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed. 2d 674 (1984). "There is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to . . . address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on one." Id. at 697.

In the context of an ineffective assistance claim, a court should be "highly deferential" when evaluating an attorney's conduct; there is a "strong presumption" that the attorney's performance was reasonable. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. "It is...only the rare claim of ineffectiveness of counsel that should succeed under the properly deferential standard to be applied in scrutinizing counsel's performance." Gray, 878 F. 2d at 711. To demonstrate that counsel was ineffective, a defendant must demonstrate that his attorney's performance fell below "the wide range of professionally competent assistance." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.

With respect to the prejudice prong, the pertinent question is "whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors," the result would have been different. Id. at 695; see also United States v. Gray, 878 F.2d 702, 709-13 (3d Cir. 1989). Speculation as to "whether a different . . . strategy might have been more successful" is not enough. Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 113 S.Ct. 838, 843-44, 122 L.Ed. 2d 180 (1993). The prejudice prong of the inquiry rests on "whether counsel's deficient performance renders the result of the . . . ...


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