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United States v. Barnes

July 20, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Padova, J.


On April 19, 2006, a jury convicted Defendant Darryl Barnes of: (1) possession with intent to distribute cocaine base ("crack") in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count I); (2) possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count II); (3) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count III); and (4) possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (Count IV). Defendant unsuccessfully appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Docket No. 134.)For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is denied.


On February 9, 2005, officers of the Philadelphia Police Department executed a search warrant for a residence located at 2625 Manton Street in Philadelphia. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 42-43; N.T. 4/18/06 at 7-8.) Inside the home were Defendant, his girlfriend, and their young son. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 45; N.T. 4/18/06 at 8-9.) During their search of the home, police discovered a safe in the basement, which they opened with a key they found in the pocket of a man's shirt in a nearby closet. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 46; N.T. 4/18/06 at 9.) Inside the safe, police discovered a loaded, nine-millimeter semiautomatic Ruger pistol, three magazines containing ammunition, a clear plastic bag containing approximately 125 grams of powder cocaine, and $7,871 in cash. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 46; N.T. 4/18/06 at 15-17.) Defendant, who was standing just feet away when the police opened the safe, told the officers that there was more "product" upstairs that he had recently cooked. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 47.)

In the kitchen on the first floor, police found 116 grams of crack and a glass pot coated with cocaine residue. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 47, 50-52; N.T. 4/18/06 at 16.) Inside a backpack in the dining room, police found two digital scales coated with cocaine residue and numerous clear packets. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 52; N.T. 4/18/06 at 13, 16.) Police also recovered two packets of crack from behind a television in the living room, as well as a packet of crack from the living room sofa where Defendant was sitting when police entered the home. (N.T. 4/17/06 at 44, 52; N.T. 4/18/06 at 15-17.)

A jury trial commenced on April 17, 2009. At the close of the Government's case in chief, Defendant moved for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, but we reserved a decision on the motion. (N.T. 4/18/06 at 52-54.) On April 19, 2006, the jury convicted Defendant on all counts. On April 25, 2006, Defendant renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29; he also moved for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. We denied both motions on May 22, 2006.

On October 26, 2006, we sentenced Defendant to, inter alia, 25 years of imprisonment, consisting of a 20-year statutory minimum term on Count I, a consecutive five-year statutory minimum term on Count III, and lesser concurrent terms on Counts II and IV. Defendant appealed to the Third Circuit on November 3, 2006, which denied the appeal on January 30, 2008. Defendant timely filed the instant Motion on April 3, 2009.


Defendant has moved for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides:

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, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Because "[s]section 2255 does not provide habeas petitioners with a panacea for all alleged trial or sentencing errors," United States v. Rishell, Civ. A. Nos. 97-294-1, 01-486, 2002 WL 4638, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 21, 2001) (citation omitted), the petitioner's claimed errors of law must be constitutional, jurisdictional, "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 (1962).


Defendant asserts three grounds for § 2255 relief, all premised on the alleged ineffective assistance provided by trial counsel. Specifically, Defendant argues that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by: (1) failing to specifically challenge the sufficiency of certain evidence at his Rule 29 hearing; (2) failing to object to certain jury instructions and the Court's summary of certain record evidence during the jury charge; and (3) failing to advocate a novel reading of a pertinent sentencing statute at his sentencing hearing.

"'Sixth Amendment claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by Strickland v. Washington, [466 U.S. 668 (1984)] . . . .'" Siehl v. Grace, 561 F.3d 189, 195 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Taylor v. Horn, 504 F.3d 416, 430 (3d Cir. 2007)). "According to Strickland, a court deciding an ineffectiveness claim must 'determine whether, in light of all the circumstances, the identified acts or omissions [of counsel] were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance.'" Id. (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). Moreover, "a petitioner must . . . show that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense," which requires that he demonstrate "'that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.'" Id. (quoting Taylor, 504 F.3d at 430). "A 'reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.'" Kindler v. Horn, 542 F.3d 70, 84 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting ...

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