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United States v. Martin

June 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendant Sylvester Martin's motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and the supplemental pleadings the Court has allowed to proceed. (Doc. Nos. 286, 297, 298.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.


On August 30, 1998, Harrisburg City Police were summoned to the 2200 block of Jefferson Street, Harrisburg, in response to a report that shots had been fired. Sylvester Martin, identified by neighbors as having fired the shots, was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, false reports to law enforcement authorities, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and firing a weapon within city limits. Martin failed to appear for his arraignment on March 26, 1999. A capias was issued for his arrest and his name was entered into the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC").

On October 31, 2000, Martin was arrested in Virginia but was released on bail, and the charges were eventually dismissed. Martin was not extradited back to Pennsylvania, though the capias for his arrest remained outstanding.

Martin was again arrested in Virginia on October 20, 2002. On January 21, 2003, Martin was extradited back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On May 15, 2003, a jury trial began on the outstanding charges against Martin in Pennsylvania. During the course of the trial, the jury inadvertently viewed Martin in handcuffs, and a mistrial was declared. The re-trial was continued several times, until November 10, 2003, when the state charges were nol prossed so that Martin's case could be referred to federal authorities pursuant to "Project Safe Neighborhoods,"a federally-funded program designed to identify state cases appropriate for federal prosecution. The attorney trying Martin's case in Dauphin County, Kimberly Kelly, was cross-designatedas a Special Assistant United States Attorney ("SAUSA"), and proceeded to try Martin's case in federal court.

On December 10, 2003, a federal indictment was returned, charging Martin with knowingly possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e). Attorney James West was appointed to represent Martin. On January 13, 2004, West filed pretrial motions to dismiss. The motions argued that the case should be dismissed based on the statute of limitations, due process violations, vindictive prosecution, and an unlawful search. (Doc. Nos. 22, 24.) After hearings, the motions were denied. (Doc. Nos. 56, 86.) Before the motions were even ruled upon, however, Attorney West moved to withdraw his representation, citing extreme lack of cooperation from Martin.

On June 3, 2005, after Martin had incurred irreconcilable differences with two additional appointed attorneys and made his first request to proceed pro se, the Court ordered a psychiatric evaluation. (Doc. No. 103.) Martin strongly contested the order that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation. (Doc. Nos. 113, 138, 147.) The Court persisted in requiring Martin to be evaluated on the basis that he had expressed a desire to represent himself, and he must be deemed competent before the Court could find a valid waiver of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Martin eventually complied with the request, and the court-ordered psychiatrist rendered an opinion that Martin was competent to stand trial and to represent himself. Martin's first request to proceed pro se was, however, deemed withdrawn. Martin subsequently received, and found inadequate, the next two defense attorneys appointed to represent him.

On October 28, 2005, Martin renewed his motion to proceed pro se, citing difficulties with his fourth appointed defense attorney. (Doc. Nos. 171, 224.) A hearing was held, during which Martin again withdrew his motion to proceed pro se. The Court stayed the trial date sixty days to enable Martin to retain the attorney of his choosing, Royce Morris. (Doc. No. 176.) When Martin could not afford Morris's services, the Court made special arrangements to appoint Morris to represent Martin. (Doc. No. 186.) While representing Martin, Morris filed a new motion to dismiss Martin's indictment, this time arguing that the indictment violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. (Doc. Nos. 217, 218.) The motion was denied. (Doc. No. 222.)

On March 17, 2006, three days prior to trial, the Court received a letter from Martin dated March 15, 2006, raising several issues "for the Court to address," though he was still represented by Morris. (Doc. No. 223.) Among other things, the letter urged the Court to further postpone the trial because Morris was not adequately representing Martin. (Doc. No. 223.) On March 17, 2006, the Court held a hearing to discuss Martin's options with him. (Doc. No. 224.) At the hearing, Morris represented to the Court that he was prepared for trial the following week and was willing to proceed. Finding no reason to stay the trial or to release competent counsel from representation at such a late date, the Court denied Martin's request to stay the trial, giving Martin the option to allow Morris to represent him at trial or to represent himself pro se with Morris acting as standby counsel. (Doc. No. 224.) Martin chose to represent himself, and the Court found that he waived his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. All told, Martin incurred irreconcilable differences with five individual attorneys prior to trial, including Morris, whom he had specifically requested.

Trial began March 20, 2006, with Martin representing himself and Morris acting as standby counsel. (Doc. Nos. 224, 236.)On March 22, 2006, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Martin. (Doc. No. 233.) Martin appealed, alleging that the indictment violated the statute of limitations and that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated. The appeal was denied. (Doc. No. 279-2.)

On June 2, 2009, Martin filed a motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255, which he has supplemented and which has been fully briefed. (Doc. Nos. 292, 297.) The motion raises several challenges to the indictment but focuses almost entirely on allegations of a vast conspiracy against him. Martin repeatedly asserts that nearly everyone involved in the judicial proceedings, including the state and federal judges involved in the case, the state and federal prosecutors, and his state and federal defense attorneys, colluded to violate his ...

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