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United States v. Murphy

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 17, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SHAQUAN MURPHY, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the court for disposition is Defendant Shaquan Murphy's (hereinafter “defendant”) 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (hereinafter “section 2255”) motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (Doc. 283). The requested relief is reinstatement of his right to appeal and resentencing without career criminal classification.

         Background

         On October 14, 2014, a criminal complaint was filed against defendant alleging violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Doc. 1). On January 27, 2016, defendant plead guilty to knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully possessing with intent to distribute heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. (Doc. 406). On July 21, 2016, we sentenced defendant to a term of 151 months; supervised release of 3 (three) years. (Doc. 361).

         On April 10, 2017, defendant filed the instant motion pro se. (Doc. 406). The government's brief in opposition was filed on July 13, 2017 (Doc. 432), thus bringing the case to its current posture.[1]

         Jurisdiction

         As defendant brings his motion under section 2255, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). We also have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (“Writs of habeas corpus may be granted by...the district courts[.]”).

         Standard of Review

         Generally, a federal prisoner in custody under the sentence of a federal court may, within one year from when the judgment becomes final, move the sentencing court to “vacate, set aside, or correct” a sentence “imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A federal prisoner may also file a section 2255 motion within one year from “[t]he date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right was newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3). A section 2255 motion may attack a federal prisoner's sentence on any of the following grounds: (1) the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction; (2) the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack; or (3) there has been such a denial or infringement of the Constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         Section 2255 does not, however, afford a remedy for all errors that may have been made at trial or sentencing. United States v. Essig, 10 F.3d 968, 977 n.25 (3d Cir. 1993). Rather, section 2255 permits relief for an error of law or fact constituting a “fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Eakman, 378 F.3d 294, 298 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979)). If the court determines that the sentence was not authorized by law, was unconstitutional, or is otherwise open to collateral attack, the court must vacate the judgment, resentence the prisoner, or grant the prisoner a new trial as appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         Discussion

         Here, defendant's motion sets forth two grounds that embody one argument: ineffective counsel for failure to appeal his sentence as a career criminal pursuant to the sentencing guidelines. Defendant claims he “advised his counsel to file an appeal on his behalf relevant to his classification as a career offender, (Doc. 283 at 5 (Ground One)), arguing that his “priors don't qualify, ” (Doc. 283 at 6 (Ground Two)). Defendant claims to have told his attorney to file an appeal based upon his classification as a career offender, his attorney advised that he would do so, but in fact did not do so. Defendant's arguments fall under the third ground for attacking a sentence: a denial or infringement of the Constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to counsel. The United States Supreme Court has found that “‘the right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of counsel.'” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984) (quoting McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771, n.14 (1970)). Counsel is ineffective when “counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686.

         Thus, under Strickland, to prove that his counsel was deficient at trial or sentencing, a defendant must convince the court of two factors, deficient performance by counsel and prejudice from that deficient performance. “First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient.” Id. at 687. Satisfying the first factor, deficient performance, requires a “showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. Substandard lawyering is not enough to obtain relief. In assessing an attorney's performance, courts apply a highly deferential level of scrutiny. See Marshall v. Cathel, 428 F.3d 452, 462 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). This deference ...


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