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United States v. Jenkins

May 24, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GENO W. JENKINS, PETITIONER.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas F. Hogan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is Petitioner's Pro Se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. After careful consideration of Petitioner's motion, Petitioner's supporting memorandum, and the entire record herein, the Court will deny the motion for the reasons explained below.

I. BACKGROUND

Officers from the narcotics branch of the Metropolitan Police Department's ("MPD") narcotics strike force executed a search warrant issued by the D.C. Superior Court at 1418 S St., S.E. in Washington, D.C. on the morning of August 1, 2001. See Def.'s Mot. in Limine (Aug. 31, 2004) at 1 [Dkt. No. 31]. The officers found Petitioner Geno W. Jenkins in a bedroom closet with "numerous items of contraband" (id.; Tr. 164:4-17, Jan. 4, 2005) on his person, to wit: "ten-packs of ziplock baggies filled with a white powder, that later proved to be heroin." Def's. Appeal Br. at 6-7, No. 05-3067 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 28, 2006) (citing App. 66, 69, 70). On November 6, 2001, a Grand Jury returned a superceding indictment charging Jenkins with five counts of drug or firearm offenses. Jenkins was tried on those charges in January 2005. On January 12, 2005, after hearing four days of testimony and deliberating for at least two days, a jury acquitted Jenkins on four counts and found him guilty on Count Two: possession with intent to distribute less than ten grams of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and § 841(b)(1)(c). On April 6, 2005, Jenkins was sentenced to 262 months in prison for that offense, to be followed by six years of supervised release. On February 11, 2008, Jenkins submitted the pending petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A defendant may "move the court which imposed [his] sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence" on the grounds that it "was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. But relief under § 2255 is "an extraordinary remedy." Cassell v. United States, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53600 (D.D.C. July 19, 2006) (citations omitted). "The person seeking to vacate his sentence shoulders the burden of sustaining his contentions by a preponderance of the evidence." Thorpe v. United States, 445 F. Supp. 2d 18, 21 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing United States v. Simpson, 475 F.2d 934, 935 (D.C. Cir. 1973)).

To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Petitioner must show both deficient performance and resulting prejudice. That is, he must demonstrate that his attorney's errors were so serious that they deprived him of the right to counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984). "This means that counsel's conduct must have fallen below an objectively reasonable standard, that is, it must have been below prevailing professional norms." United States v. Motta-Vargas, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44355 (D.D.C. Apr. 30, 2010) (Lamberth, C.J.) (citation omitted). "Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential," and courts "must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. As the Supreme Court has recognized, "there are countless ways to provide effective assistance in any given case," id., and absent consideration of counsel's overall performance, it would be "all too easy for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel was unreasonable." Id.

In addition to demonstrating attorney error, Petitioner must show the sine qua non to a collateral attack on a criminal conviction: resulting prejudice. Specifically, he must demonstrate, in light of "the totality of the evidence before the judge or jury," a reasonable probability that the outcome of his case would have been different but for the error. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 695; Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57-58 (1985). To satisfy the prejudice prong, the harm must be such "that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 369 (1993) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687).

A "reasonable probability" is one "sufficient to undermine confidence" in the verdict. Id. at 694-5 ("the question is whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors, the factfinder would have had a reasonable doubt respecting guilt"); see Hill, 474 U.S. at 59; Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 366 (the prejudice must be such "that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." (citation omitted)); see also United States v. Bowie, 198 F.3d 905, 908-909 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (noting that "reasonable probability" need not be greater than fifty percent). If the petitioner fails to make such a showing, a court may dispose of an ineffective assistance claim without deciding whether counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Id. at 697.

With this burden in mind, the Court turns to Petitioner's claim.

B. Petitioner's Ineffective Assistance Claim

Petitioner asserts three intertwined grounds for his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. First, he complains that his attorney, Idus J. Daniel, Jr. failed to object to the government's use of his 1978 armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon convictions to impeach his testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(b). Mot. at 3. Second, Petitioner claims that Daniel failed to investigate and properly interview Petitioner, arguing that had he done so, Daniel would have learned that the prior conviction evidence could have been excluded under Rule 609(b). Mot. at 7. Finally, Petitioner alleges that Daniel failed to ...


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