United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Lisi Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is a Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal
Custody (Doc. #188) (“Motion”) and amendment
thereto (Doc. #189) (“Amended Motion”) filed by
Petitioner Robert O. Robinson (“Petitioner” or
“Robinson”). The Government has filed an
objection to the Motion (Doc. #190)
(“Objection”), to which Robinson filed a reply
(Doc. #191) (“Reply”). No hearing is necessary.
BACKGROUND AND TRAVEL
August 17, 2011, a grand jury sitting in the District of
Rhode Island returned an indictment charging Robinson with
one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute
280 grams or more of cocaine base and ten counts of
possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1), and
846. After a jury trial, Robinson was convicted on June 20,
2012, of each count. He was sentenced on October 31, 2012, to
a term of 240 months imprisonment. Judgment entered on
November 7, 2012. Robinson appealed, and the Court of Appeals
for the First Circuit affirmed Robinson's convictions in
their entirety. United States v. Robinson, 753 F.3d
31 (1st Cir. 2014). On October 6, 2014, the United States
Supreme Court denied Robinson's petition for writ of
certiorari. Robinson v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 313 (2014).
timely filed the instant Motion on September 23, 2015,
followed by the Amended Motion. He alleges ineffective assistance
of both plea and appellate counsel.
Section 2255 and AEDPA
Generally, the grounds justifying relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 are limited. A court may grant such relief only
if it finds a lack of jurisdiction, a constitutional error,
or a fundamental error of law. See United States v.
Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979)(“[A]n error of
law does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless the
claimed error constituted a fundamental defect which
inherently results in a complete miscarriage of
justice.”)(internal quotation marks omitted).
2255 states that:
(a) A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court
established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be
released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in
violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States,
or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such
sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum
authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral
attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to
vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
1996, Congress enacted the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), which “imposed
significant new constraints on proceedings under section
2255.” Trenkler v. United States, 536
F.3d 85, 96 (1st Cir. 2008)(footnote omitted). “Some of
these constraints were temporal; for example, AEDPA
established a one-year statute of limitations for filing a
section 2255 petition.” Id. (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(f)). Others were numerical, requiring a
petitioner to obtain preclearance from the circuit court
before filing a second or successive petition. Id.
(citing 28 U.S. § 2255(h)).
defendant who claims that he was deprived of his Sixth
Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel must
(1) that his counsel's performance fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness; and
(2) a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88
(1984); United States v. Manon, 608 F.3d 126, 131
(1st Cir. 2010)(same). In assessing the adequacy of
counsel's performance, a defendant “‘must
identify the acts or omissions of counsel that are alleged
not to have been the result of reasonable professional
judgment, ' and the court then determines whether, in the
particular context, the identified conduct or inaction was
‘outside the wide range of professionally competent
assistance.'” Manon, 608 F.3d at 131
(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690); see also
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (noting that the court
“must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance ...”). To show prejudice under
Strickland, the defendant must demonstrate that
“there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. A reasonable
probability is one “sufficient to undermine confidence
in the outcome.” Id. In making the prejudice
assessment, the court focuses on the “fundamental
fairness of the proceeding.” Manon, 608 F.3d
at 131; see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 696.
“Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be
said that the conviction ... resulted from a breakdown in the
adversary process that renders the result unreliable.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687; see also
Reyes-Vejerano v. United States, 117 F.Supp.2d 103, 106
(D.P.R. 2000)(“The petitioner has the burden of proving
both prongs of this test, and the burden is a heavy
one.”). “The benchmark for judging any claim of
ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so
undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process
that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just
result.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686.
same principles apply in the context of guilty pleas. See
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57 (1985). The
Hill Court held that “the two-part
Strickland v. Washington test applies to challenges
to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance of
counsel.” Id. at 58; see also Padilla v.
Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 n.12 (2010)(“In
Hill, the Court recognized-for the first time-that
Strickland applies to advice respecting a guilty
plea.”). The first prong of the Strickland
test is nothing more than a restatement of the standard of
attorney competence described above. Hill, 474 U.S.
The second, or “prejudice” requirement, on the
other hand, focuses on whether counsel's constitutionally
ineffective performance affected the outcome of the plea
process. In other words, in order to satisfy the
“prejudice” requirement, the defendant must show
that there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial.
Id. at 59, ; see also Lafler v. Cooper,
156, 163 (2012)(“In the context of pleas a defendant
must show the outcome of the plea process would have been
different with competent advice.”); id. at 164
(“In these circumstances a defendant must show that but
for the ineffective advice of counsel there is a reasonable
probability that the plea offer would have been presented to
the court (i.e., that the defendant would have accepted the
plea and the prosecution would not have withdrawn it in light
of intervening circumstances), that the court would have
accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or
both, under the offer's terms would have been less severe
than under the judgment and sentence that in fact were
imposed.”). The Hill Court reiterated that, as
stated in Strickland, “these predictions of
the outcome at a possible trial, where necessary, should be
made objectively ....” 474 U.S. at 59-60; see ...