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United States of America v. Terril Edwards

July 26, 2012


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


Before the Court is Terril Edwards's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (the "§ 2255 Motion"), as well as a Motion for Leave to Amend the § 2255 Motion. For the following reasons, we deny the Motion for Leave to Amend, and dismiss the § 2255 Motion.


The Indictment in this case charged Edwards with possessing in excess of 50 grams, that is,

70.74 grams, of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A); using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1); and felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The charges arose after police officers stopped Edwards on the street to question him, subsequently searched him, and discovered both crack cocaine and a firearm. Prior to trial, Edwards filed a Motion to Suppress the crack cocaine and firearm, arguing that the initial Terry stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion. See generally Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). We held a suppression hearing and thereafter denied the Motion to Suppress in a September 9, 2008 Order-Memorandum. United States v. Edwards, Crim. A. No. 08-27, 2008 WL 4272631 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 9, 2008).

After a three day trial, a jury convicted Edwards of all charges. We sentenced him on February 9, 2009, to a lifetime term of imprisonment, plus a ten year term of supervised release and a special assessment of $300. Edward appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, arguing that we erred in refusing to suppress the gun and crack cocaine. However, the Third Circuit rejected this claim, and affirmed his judgment of conviction on May 6, 2010. United States v. Edwards, No. 09-1428, 378 F. App'x 139 (3d Cir. 2010).

Edwards filed a timely Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on May 13, 2011, asserting three grounds for relief. He filed a Memorandum in Support of that Motion on July 7, 2011. The Government filed a response to the § 2255 Motion on September 22, 2011. On October 11, 2011, Edwards filed an "Opposition/Rebuttal to the Government's Response," in which he requested leave to file an amended Motion, but did not detail the amendments that he proposed. On December 9, 2011, we entered an Order, granting Edwards leave to file a formal Motion for Leave to File an Amended Petition that detailed his proposed amendments. At the same time, we cautioned him that, under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), a petitioner must ordinarily file a § 2255 Petition within one year from "the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final," 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), and that, by our calculations, his time for filing under the AEDPA had expired. We advised Edwards that, although we have discretion to consider clarification or amplification of claims that have been asserted in a timely § 2255 petition, a petitioner may not amend his § 2255 petition to add new claims or insert new legal theories after the AEDPA statute of limitations has expired. See United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 431 (3d Cir. 2000).

In spite of this warning, on January 17, 2012, Edwards filed an "Amendment of his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion," in which he asked us to "set aside" the three claims that he had asserted in his initial Motion, stating that he had "learned that the Motion was the uttmost [sic] of frivolous" (Docket No. 99, at 1, 14), and requested that he be permitted to replace his prior § 2255 Motion with an Amended Motion asserting two new claims. On February 8, 2012, we granted Edwards's request to set aside his previously asserted claims, marked those claims withdrawn, and ordered the Government to file a response to Edwards's Motion for Leave to Amend insofar as it sought to assert the two new claims. The Government thereafter filed a response arguing that we should deny the amended § 2255 Motion without a hearing.


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

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). "Section 2255 does not provide habeas petitioners with a panacea for all alleged trial or sentencing errors." United States v. Rishell, Crim. A. No. 97-294-1, Civ. A. No. 01-486, 2002 WL 4638, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 21, 2001) (citation omitted). In order to prevail on a § 2255 motion, the movant'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).

The AEDPA sets forth a one-year period of limitation for the filing of § 2255 habeas petitions:

A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to a motion under this section. The limitation period ...

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