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United States v. Atkinson

June 4, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TONY D. ATKINSON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Judge, United States District Court

OPINION AND ORDER

SYNOPSIS

In this criminal matter, a jury convicted Defendant of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). He was sentenced on June 29, 2007, to a term of 210 months imprisonment.

Defendant now brings a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, contending that counsel was ineffective in seeking continuances; failing to adequately and timely investigate certain evidence; failing to subpoena certain witnesses; and failing to be familiar with the law relevant to a suppression motion. In addition, Defendant argues that the trial proceedings, taken as a whole, violated his due process rights.

For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be denied.

OPINION

I. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

A. Section 2255

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, 93 Fed. Appx. 402, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 5692, at *4 (3d Cir. 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). Moreover, "[c]onclusory allegations are insufficient to obtain § 2255 relief." Infante-Cabrera v. United States, No. 6-205, 1-1150, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26280, at *16 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 25, 2008).

Finally, a pro se pleading is held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.. Ed. 2d 251 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.. Ed. 2d 652 (1972). Thus, a pro se habeas petition should be construed liberally. See Royce v. Hahn, 151 F.3d 116, 118 (3d Cir. 1998). I consider Defendant's Motion according to these standards.

B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In the context of an ineffective assistance of counsel 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 v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed. 674 (1984). "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." United States v. Gray, 878 F. 2d 702, 711 (3d Cir. 1989). Counsel's performance must be evaluated keeping in mind that an attorney's trial strategies are a matter of professional judgment and often turn on facts not contained in the trial record. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. In this analysis, the court cannot take on the role of "Monday morning quarterback." Harris v. Reed, 894 F.2d 871, 877 (7th Cir. 1990).

Under applicable standards, Defendant must meet a two-pronged test: "(1) that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's error, the result would have been different." Rolan v. Vaughn, 445 F.3d 671, 681 (3d Cir. 2006). These standards apply to both ...


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