United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
DONETTA W. AMBROSE, Senior District Judge.
In this matter, a jury convicted Defendant, who proceeded at trial pro se with appointed standby counsel, on four counts of violating 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) and (d); 18 U.S.C. § 371; and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Subsequently, on May 9, 2012, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 190 months. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that this Court incorrectly denied a motion to suppress his statement to law enforcement. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction on all grounds. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Defendant contends that he entitled to relief based on new law, prosecutorial misconduct, and various instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. He has also filed a motion to appoint counsel. For the following reasons, the Motions will be denied, and no certificate of appealability shall issue.
I. APPLICABLE STANDARDS
A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255
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). "A person seeking to vacate his conviction bears the burden of proof upon each ground presented for relief." United States v. Keyes, No. 93-22-2 , 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12109, at *2 (E. D. Pa. Aug. 11, 1997).
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 (3d Cir. 2004). Pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, and I have so considered Defendant's submissions. See United States v. Otero , 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d Cir. 2007). Under these standards, a hearing is unnecessary in this case, and the Motion will be disposed of on the record.
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 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 have considered 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 (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). Both appellate and trial counsel are assessed under the Strickland standard. Echols v. Ricci, 492 Fed.Appx. 301, 312 (3d Cir. 2012).
To demonstrate that counsel was ineffective, a defendant must show that counsel's performance fell below "the wide range of professionally competent assistance" and also that the deficient conduct prejudiced defendant. Strickland , 466 U.S. at 687. Counsel's conduct must be assessed according to the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct. Id . at 689. Under the prejudice prong, the pertinent question is "whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors, " the result would have been different. Id . at 695; see also United States v. Gray , 878 F.2d 702, 709-13 (3d Cir. 1989). The prejudice prong of Strickland rests on "whether counsel's deficient performance renders the result of the... proceeding fundamentally unfair, " or strips the defendant of a "substantive or procedural right to which the law entitles him." Id . at 844.
II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION
A. Ineffective Assistance ...