United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
CYNTHIA M. RUFE, J.
On December 17, 2009, Defendant Dwayne Parker was indicted of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). He pleaded not guilty and filed a motion to suppress physical evidence, which this Court denied. He then changed his plea to guilty, reserving his right to appeal the Court’s suppression decision. The Third Circuit affirmed this Court’s ruling no the suppression motion, and this Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 followed.
I. Factual Background
The facts of this case were concisely set out in the Third Circuit’s opinion on Parker’s appeal of the suppression motion:
Around 4 a.m. on October 22, 2009, after receiving an anonymous 911 call, Philadelphia police dispatch issued two radio calls one minute apart reporting a robbery in progress and a person with a gun. The two calls stated the robbery was occurring at 300 West Glenwood Avenue, which the police regard as mid-level crime area, and identified the robbers as black males driving a silver Cadillac. Within one minute of receiving the calls, Officers Lewis and Binns arrived at 300 West Glenwood Avenue, where they spotted a silver Cadillac Escalade SUV turn left from Third Street. The officers could not determine how many people were in the car because of its tinted windows. There was no other traffic in the area. When Lewis and Binns pulled behind the Cadillac in their marked patrol car with their overhead lights off, it double-parked in front of the gate of a closed auto garage. Based on his experience, Lewis believed this action might be an avoidance tactic to prevent the police from running the license plate or to avoid attention by allowing the police to drive by. Lewis and Binns pulled behind the Cadillac and turned on their overhead lights; other officers also arrived at the scene.
While approaching the vehicle, Lewis and Binns observed Dwayne Parker, one of the five men in the car, reaching and looking downward and making sudden movements. After the men were removed from the car, Lewis looked inside the vehicle and spotted a firearm on the floor where Parker had been seated. Parker was arrested for weapons violations. He was later indicted with a count of felon-in-possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and taken into federal custody. After being advised of his Miranda rights, he admitted possession of the gun.
II. Parker’s Claims
Guilty pleas significantly curtail the range of claims that a criminal defendant can raise under a § 2255 motion. One cognizable issue is ineffective assistance of counsel. These claims may properly be raised in a motion for collateral relief rather than on direct appeal, and Parker has raised several allegations of ineffective assistance.
On his form § 2255 motion, Parker argues that counsel was ineffective for: (1) failing to “challenge the reasonableness and intrusiveness of the investigation following the stop”; (2) failing to use certain evidence obtained in discovery that would have exposed perjury by the police offers who testified at the suppression hearing; (3) failing to “investigate all the facts surrounding the case against the defendant”; and (4) failing to object to the Court’s imposing a sentence on Defendant pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). In a brief attached to the form motion, Parker argues what could be construed as three additional grounds for relief: (5) that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and cross-examine police officers “concerning the true facts of the reason for the actual stopping of the car”; (6) that his predicate guilty pleas (or his guilty plea in this Court) were not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; and (7) that this Court erred in its determination that the law required Parker to be sentenced pursuant to the ACCA.
Because some of these grounds are related, the Court will organize its discussion by addressing the issues grouped together in the following order: claims related to the stop and search of the car (grounds (1) and (5)); ACCA issues (grounds (4) and (7)); counsel’s failure to investigate and cross examine witnesses at the suppression hearing (grounds (2) and (3)); and the voluntariness of Parker’s pleas (ground (6)).
III. Governing Law
The Sixth Amendment guarantees not only that all criminal defendants are entitled to counsel, but also that their counsel will be effective. In order to make out a claim of ineffective assistance, “the defendant must show that counsel’s performance was deficient, ” meaning “that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel’ guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.” It is not ineffective for counsel to decline to make arguments that would have lacked merit, because to prevail on a Strickland claim, “a defendant alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.”
A. Stop and Search of ...