United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the motion  of John
Davis to vacate, set aside, or correct his 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
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 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
October 23, 2014, a Federal Grand Jury in the Northern
District of Mississippi indicted Davis for conspiracy to
distribute cocaine base and aiding and abetting possession
with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 841(a) and (b)(1)(C), and 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Doc. 21. Investigators executed a search warrant at
Davis' residence on October 21, 2014, and three firearms
were recovered: a Ruger, Model 03313, 9mm handgun; a
High-Point, Model 995, 9mm handgun, and a Marlin, Model 60,
.22 caliber semi-automatic rifle. PSR. 13. Additionally,
investigators seized $12, 020, 2 cell phones, one pound of
marijuana, and 6 vehicles. PSR. 13.
plead guilty to aiding and abetting possession and
distribution of at least 280 grams of cocaine base. Doc. 158
Pgs. 7, 15. During the October 29, 2015, sentencing hearing,
the Court asked defense counsel if he had reviewed the
presentence report and if there were any objections. Doc.
257. Pg 3. Counsel stated that he had reviewed the
presentence report and had no objections. Doc. 257. Pg 3. The
court also asked the Davis if there was anything he would
like to state for the record. He stated, “I messed ...