United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
SHARION AYCOCK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on the motion of Airen Paige
Williams to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence under
28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government has responded to the
motion, and the matter is ripe for resolution. For the
reasons set forth below, the instant motion to vacate, set
aside, or correct sentence will be denied.
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 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
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, a § 2255 motion sets forth only
four bases on which 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 court 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 response, 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)).
the movant 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).
16, 2011, Airen Paige Williams was indicted on Count One of a
Superseding Indictment on the charge of conspiracy to
distribute over 5 kilograms of cocaine (Doc. 945). Under 21,
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(2)(A), and 846, that crime
carries a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence upon conviction.
Williams reached a plea agreement with the government and on
August 9, 2012, pled guilty to the crime. (Docs. 671, 672,
and 673). The plea agreement contained a waiver of
Williams' right to collaterally attack her sentence.
(Guilty Plea Transcript, pp. 13-14). Williams moved to
withdraw the guilty plea, and the court denied the motion on
November 5, 2012. (Docs. 742 and 756). On December 31, 2012,
the court sentenced Williams to the mandatory minimum prison
term of 10 years. (Doc. 852). Williams pursued a direct
appeal, but it was dismissed on her motion. (Doc. 970).
Williams then moved (Doc. 867) under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
vacate her sentence, but the court dismissed the motion
because Williams had waived her right to seek § 2255
relief. (Doc. 1116). On April 8, 2015, Williams moved for a
sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582 (Doc. 1114),
which the court denied. (Doc. 1120). Williams now seeks
relief through a second motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
requesting retroactive application of USSG Amendment 794.
pled guilty under a written plea agreement and supplement.
Williams waived the right to appeal her conviction or to ...