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United States v. Santiago

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

August 25, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ALEXANDER JESUS SANTIAGO

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

Alexander Jesus Santiago, proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion"). (ECF No. 41.) Santiago asserts entitlement to relief upon the following grounds:

Claim One Santiago was denied his constitutional right to confront his accuser.[1] (Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. 4.)
Claim Two Trial counsel, Carolyn Grady, performed deficiently by encouraging Santiago to sign a stipulation regarding the admission of the Certificates of Analysis prepared by Jennifer M. McKay.[2] (Id. at 7.)
Claim Three Trial counsel performed deficiently by failing to object to the seating of a biased juror. (Id. at 9.)
Claim Four Counsel performed deficiently by failing to file a motion to suppress. (Id. at 11.)

The Government has responded. (ECF No. 46.) Santiago has replied. (ECF No. 49-1.) For the reasons that follow, Santiago's claims will be dismissed.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Following a jury trial, Santiago was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute one hundred or more grams of heroin. United States v. Santiago, 406 F.Appx. 746, 747 (4th Cir. 2010). The Court sentenced Santiago to eighty-seven months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 26.) Santiago appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of this Court. Santiago, 406 F.Appx. at 748.

II. CERTIFICATES OF ANALYSIS

During Santiago's jury trial, on November 9, 2009, the Government's first witness, Scott Caporossi, a special agent with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, testified, inter alia, to the chain of custody for the heroin found in the car Santiago was driving at the time of his arrest. (See, e.g., Nov. 9, 2009 Tr. 140-42.) Following the lunch recess, during Agent Caporossi's testimony, the Government introduced two Certificates of Analysis for bags of heroin the police had seized. (Nov. 9, 2009 Tr. 143-45.) At the conclusion of the trial, the Government introduced a stipulation signed by counsel for the Government, counsel for Santiago, and Santiago, wherein they agreed the Certificates of Analysis prepared by Jennifer McKay, a Forensic Chemist with the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration's Mid-Atlantic Laboratory, could be "introduced into evidence without further authentication, without objection on hearsay or other grounds." (Nov. 9, 2009 Tr. 281-82.)

In Claim One, Santiago claims his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser was violated by the admission of the Certificates of Analysis for the heroin without the presence of the chemist who prepared the Certificates.

In Claim Two, Santiago contends that trial counsel, Carolyn Grady, performed deficiently by encouraging him to sign the stipulation regarding the admission of the Certificates of Analysis. Santiago contends that he signed the stipulation only after Agent Caporossi had testified to the content of the Certificates of Analysis. Specifically, Santiago asserts:

Surely, counsel was derelict and functioned below the expected norm when she had petitioner to sign a "stipulation" which was after fact and only was done to give an impression that it was proper, when it is grossly improper, inasmuch it wasn't timely and it was only done after the fact of the Crawford-Menlendez-Dia[z][3] violation.

(Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. 8, ECF No. 42.) In an unsworn affidavit submitted contemporaneously with his § 2255 Motion, Santiago represents, "During my trial, well after the completion of Agent Caporossi's testimony, my attorney had me... sign the stipulation' which only reflected what Agent Caporossi had already testified to, under oath." (Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. Ex. A, at 1.) Thereafter, Santiago submitted a reply wherein he swears that the use of the past tense in the stipulation reflects that the parties signed the stipulation after all of the pertinent ...


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