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United States v. Jefferson

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

October 6, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CARL ARMSTEAD JEFFERSON, Petitioner.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

Carl Jefferson, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 45) to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. In his § 2255 Motion, Jefferson demands relief upon the following grounds:[1]

Claim One Jefferson failed to receive the effective assistance of counsel, as counsel failed to argue that the "case should not have enter[ed] the Federal courts... because the officer [who inventoried the crack cocaine] was under a criminal indictment...."[2] (§ 2255 Mot. 7.)[3]
Claim Two "The judicial proceeding was poison from the start, and no traditional law' was appl[ied.]" (Id. at 8.)
Claim Three Jefferson's "Sixth Amendment[4] right was violated, [as] he was not giv[en] a[n] opportunity to confront witnesses against him (Officer Wise)..." (Id. at 10 (internal quotation marks omitted).)

The United States has responded. (ECF No. 48.) The matter is ripe for judgment.

I. Procedural History

On August 3, 2010, a grand jury charged Jefferson with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Count One) and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Two). (Indictment, ECF No. 1.) The jury convicted Jefferson of both counts charged in the Indictment. (Jury Verdict 1, ECF No. 24.) The Court sentenced Jefferson to 48 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 33.)

Jefferson appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected Jefferson's argument that this Court "erred by admitting evidence of the cocaine base when the chain of custody was not established." United States v. Jefferson, 446 F.Appx. 553, 554 (4th Cir. 2011). The Fourth Circuit affirmed Jefferson's conviction. Id . at 555.

II. Claim One: Alleged Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

To demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a convicted defendant must show first, that counsel's representation was deficient and second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To satisfy the deficient performance prong of Strickland, a convicted defendant must overcome the strong presumption' that counsel's strategy and tactics fall within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.'" Burch v. Corcoran, 273 F.3d 577, 588 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). The prejudice component requires a convicted defendant to "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. In analyzing ineffective assistance of counsel claims, it is not necessary to determine whether counsel performed deficiently if the claim is readily dismissed for lack of prejudice. Id. at 697.

Jefferson asserts that if the grand jury had been informed of Officer Wise's embezzlement conviction, [5] it would not have found probable cause to indict. In Claim One, Jefferson faults counsel for failing to pursue this argument. Jefferson's claim fails for a number of reasons. At the time of Jefferson's grand jury indictment, he was not represented by counsel, but even after counsel was appointed, there were no grounds to challenge the failure or inability to present evidence to the grand jury. First, the accused has no right to be informed of, or be present at, grand jury proceedings, see Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(d)(1), much less present his own evidence to the grand jury. Moreover, a defendant may not challenge an indictment "on the ground that there was inadequate or incompetent evidence before the grand jury.'" United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36, 54 (1992) (quoting Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 363-64 (1956)). Because Jefferson has failed to demonstrate deficiency or prejudice, Claim One will be dismissed.

III. Claim Two

Jefferson's second claim is that "[t]he judicial proceeding was poison from the start, and no traditional law' was appl[ied.]" (§ 2255 Mot. 8.) This conclusory allegation fails to state a legal claim for relief. Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 19 (1963) (finding denial of habeas action appropriate where the action "stated only bald ...


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