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Hampton v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

May 22, 2012

WILLIE HAMPTON MOVANT
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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.

         Habeas Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         The 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 codified:

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 corpus.

Id.

         Section 2255 Proceedings

         Section 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).

         The 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.

         After 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. 1998)).

         Ultimately, 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).

         Facts and Procedural Posture

         In May 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)).

         By the 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 provides that:

[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.

         Prior 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).

         Hampton 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).

         Hampton was subject to a life sentence under both statutory and Sentencing Guideline provisions.

         Under the Statute:

         Willie 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. § 841(b)(1)(A)).

         Under the Sentencing Guidelines:

         Hampton 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.

         Hampton 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 ...


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