United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
SHARION AYCOCK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the motion of Willie Hampton
to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. The government has responded to the motion, and
the parties have submitted additional briefing. The matter is
ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the
instant motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence will
be dismissed with prejudice as untimely filed.
Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
writ of habeas corpus, a challenge to the legal
authority under which a person may be detained, is ancient.
Duker, The English Origins of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: A
Peculiar Path to Fame, 53 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 983 (1978); Glass,
Historical Aspects of Habeas Corpus, 9 St. John's L.Rev.
55 (1934). It is “perhaps the most important writ known
to the constitutional law of England, ” Secretary
of State for Home Affairs v. O'Brien, A.C. 603, 609
(1923), and it is equally significant in the United States.
Article I, § 9, of the Constitution ensures that the
right of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be
suspended, except when, in the case of rebellion or invasion,
public safety may require it. Habeas Corpus, 20 Fed.
Prac. & Proc. Deskbook § 56. Its use by the federal
courts was authorized in Section14 of the Judiciary Act of
1789. Habeas corpus principles developed over time
in both English and American common law have since been
The statutory provisions on habeas corpus appear as
sections 2241 to 2255 of the 1948 Judicial Code. The
recodification of that year set out important procedural
limitations and additional procedural changes were added in
1966. The scope of the writ, insofar as the statutory
language is concerned, remained essentially the same,
however, until 1996, when Congress enacted the Antiterrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act, placing severe restrictions
on the issuance of the writ for state prisoners and setting
out special, new habeas corpus procedures for
capital cases. The changes made by the 1996 legislation are
the end product of decades of debate about habeas
28 U.S.C. § 2255 permits an inmate serving a sentence
after conviction of a federal crime “to move the court
which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct
the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). As with the
writ of habeas corpus, see 28 U.S.C.
§§ 2241, 2254, Section 2255 sets forth only four
bases on which such a motion may be made: (1) the sentence
was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the
United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to
impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeds the statutory
maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is “otherwise
subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). Thus, a prisoner must claim either a constitutional
violation or want of subject matter jurisdiction to invoke 28
U.S.C. § 2255. In the absence of constitutional or
jurisdictional defects, a federal prisoner may invoke §
2255 only if the error constitutes “a fundamental
defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of
justice.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S.
178, 185 (1979).
district court must first conduct a preliminary review of a
section 2255 motion, and “[i]f it plainly appears from
the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of the
prior proceeding that the moving party is not entitled to
relief, the judge must dismiss the motion.” Rules
Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rule 4(b). If the motion
raises a non-frivolous claim to relief, the court must order
the Government to file a response or to take other
appropriate action. Id. The judge may then require
the parties to expand the record as necessary and, if good
cause is shown, authorize limited discovery. Rules
Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rules 6-7.
reviewing the government's answer, any transcripts and
records of prior proceedings, and any supplementary materials
submitted by the parties, the court must decide whether an
evidentiary hearing is warranted. Rules Governing Section
2255 Proceedings, Rule 8. Under the statute, an
evidentiary hearing must be held unless “the motion and
the files and records of the case conclusively show that the
prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. §
2255(b). However, the court need not hold an evidentiary
hearing if the prisoner fails to produce “independent
indicia of the likely merit of [his] allegations.”
United States v. Edwards, 442 F.3d 258, 264
(5th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v.
Cervantes, 132 F.3d 1106, 1110 (5th Cir.
the petitioner bears the burden of establishing his claims of
error by a preponderance of the evidence. See Wright v.
United States, 624 F.2d 557, 558 (5th Cir.
1980). For certain “structural” errors, relief
follows automatically once the error is proved. See
Burgess v. Dretke, 350 F.3d 461, 472 (5th
Cir. 2003). For other errors at the trial court level, the
court may grant relief only if the error “had
substantial and injurious effect or influence” in
determining the outcome of the case. Brecht v.
Abrahmson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993); see also United
States v. Chavez, 193 F.3d 375, 379 (5th Cir.
1999) (applying Brecht's harmless error standard
in a § 2255 proceeding). If the court finds that the
prisoner is entitled to relief, it “shall vacate and
set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or
resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence
as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
and Procedural Posture
of 2000, Willie Hampton was named in four counts of a nine
count indictment: Count One charged conspiracy to distribute
an amount in excess of 50 grams of crack cocaine, with a
potential sentence of ten years to life imprisonment (21
U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 846); Count Four charged
distribution of an amount in excess of five grams of crack
cocaine, with a potential sentence of five to 40 years (21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)); Count Five charged possession
with intent to distribute crack cocaine, with a potential
sentence of not more than 20 years (21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(C)); and Count Six charged possession with intent
to distribute an amount in excess of 50 grams of crack
cocaine and an amount in excess of 500 grams of powder
cocaine, with a potential sentence of ten years to life
imprisonment (21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)).
date of that indictment, Hampton had been previously
convicted of Possession of Marijuana for Sale (California
Superior Court, San Mateo County, Dkt. # C8851) and
Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute (U.S.
District Court, San Francisco, CA, Dkt. # CR86-0444LHB).
Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), ¶ ¶ 48, 54.
As a result, Hampton was categorized as a career offender.
PSR, ¶ 35. In Count Six, Hampton was indicted for
possession with intent to distribute in excess of 50 grams of
crack cocaine in violation of § 841(b)(1)(A), which
[i]f any person commits a violation of this subparagraph ...
after two or more prior convictions for a felony drug
offenses have become final, such person shall be sentenced to
a mandatory term of life imprisonment without release and
fined in accordance with the preceding sentence.
to trial, the government filed notice of its intent to seek
an enhanced statutory sentence as a result of Hampton's
prior convictions under 21 U.S.C. § 851. (Doc. #46).
proceeded to trial, and on January 30, 2001, the Jury
acquitted him on Count One, but convicted him on Counts Four,
Five and Six. (Doc. #186). The Pre-Sentence Investigation
Report contained facts showing that Hampton was responsible
for 2.659 kilograms of crack cocaine and 5.724 kilograms of
powder cocaine. PSR, ¶ 19. On July 11, 2001, the
district court adopted the findings of the Pre-Sentence
Report and sentenced Hampton to a mandatory term of life
imprisonment. (Doc. #208).
was subject to a life sentence under both statutory and
Sentencing Guideline provisions.
Hampton was convicted on Count Four. As Hampton's
sentence had been previously enhanced for a prior drug
conviction, according to 21 U.S.C. § 851, his sentencing
range for Count Four was not less than 10 years not more than
life imprisonment. PSR, ¶ 92 (a violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(B)). Hampton was also convicted on Count
Six. His sentence was enhanced under 21 U.S.C. § 851,
and Hampton was subject to a statutory mandatory life
sentence. PSR, ¶ 92 (a violation of 21 U.S.C. §
the Sentencing Guidelines:
was held accountable for 2.659 kilograms of crack cocaine and
5.724 kilograms of powder cocaine, which resulted in a base
offense level of 38. PSR, ¶¶ 19, 26. Hampton's
sentence was enhanced because he was a leader organizer (4
levels) and for obstruction of justice (2 levels), which
resulted in a total offense level of 44. PSR, ¶¶
29, 30, 31, respectively. Hampton thus had a total offense
level of 44 and a criminal history category VI, which
resulted in a sentencing guideline range of mandatory life
imprisonment. PSR, ¶¶ 32, 64.
filed a direct appeal. His conviction was affirmed on
November 12, 2004. His Petition for Writ of Certiorari was
denied on February 8, 2005. Hampton filed a Motion to Set
Aside Judgment on June 20, 2005. That Motion was denied
September 30, 2005. Hampton filed his first Motion to Vacate
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on March 3, 2006, which was
denied on December 19, 2007. Hampton filed a Motion for
Retroactive Application of Sentencing Guidelines to Crack
Cocaine Offense on February 28, 2008, which was denied on May
12, 2008, as moot, because Hampton was sentenced to life
imprisonment under two scenarios, one being a career offender
with two prior drug convictions. The order denying the
retroactive application of the sentencing guidelines to the
crack cocaine offenses ...