United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
J. McCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ineffective assistance of counsel, Marlon Straw has moved to
Vacate or Set Aside His Conviction under 28 U.S.C. §
2255. ECF No. 59. The government objects to the motion (ECF
No. 67) to which Mr. Straw replies. ECF No. 68, Mr. Straw
makes two arguments, his counsel failed to investigate
properly his case, and that counsel failed to file an appeal.
Finding no merit in either of Mr. Straw's claims, the
Court DENIES his Motion to Vacate.
Straw was the passenger in a car that the state police pulled
over for speeding-79 miles-per-hour in a 65 mile-per-hour
zone. After making the stop, the state troopers asked the
driver and the passenger for identification. When the
passenger was unable to provide an ID, the police officers
asked him to step out of the car, and frisked him with his
permission. Mr. Straw gave the police a false name and date
of birth. The driver, whom the police also asked about the
passenger's identity, gave the police a different name
for him. When confronted with this conflicting information,
Mr. Straw admitted that he lied about his name, and gave the
officers yet another false name. The police then arrested Mr.
Straw for obstructing an officer in the execution of duty
under R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-32-1. They handcuffed him and
transported him to the police barracks. At the station, the
police searched Mr. Straw again, and found a gun in his sock.
After running a fingerprint check, the police discovered that
the passenger's real name was Marlon Straw.
Straw filed a Motion to Suppress. ECF No. 21. The Court held
an evidentiary hearing followed by a hearing for legal
arguments. See Transcripts of the hearings at ECF
Nos. 28 and 39. The Court ruled that the police acted
properly in their stop, interrogation, and arrest of Mr.
Straw and so denied his Motion to Suppress the gun found on
him at the police station. See Bench Decision at ECF
No. 39 at 53-57.
weeks after the denial of his Motion to Suppress, Mr. Straw
plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2)
and illegal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§
1326(a) and 1326(b)(2). See Transcript of Change of
Plea Hearing at ECF No. 49. The Court subsequently sentenced
Mr. Straw to 46 months of incarceration. The Clerk of Court
entered the Judgment of Conviction, ECF No. 53, Mr. Straw did
not file an appeal.
after his conviction, Mr, Straw moved for post-conviction
relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 claiming ineffective
assistance of counsel. ECF No. 59.
2255 provides for post-conviction relief if the court
sentenced a petitioner in violation of the Constitution or
lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, if the sentence
exceeded the statutory maximum, or if the sentence is
otherwise subject to collateral attack. United States v.
Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979); David v. United
States, 134 F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). In seeking to
collaterally attack his sentence, the petitioner bears the
burden of proving "exceptional circumstances" that
warrant redress under § 2255. See Hill v. United
States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962); Mack v. United
States, 635 F.2d 20, 26-27 (1st Cir. 1980). For example,
an error of law must constitute a "fundamental defect
which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of
justice." Hill, 368 U.S. at 428; accord
David, 134 F.3d at 474.
Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective
assistance of counsel. Lema v. United States, 987
F.2d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 1993) (citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). Even so,
"[t]he Constitution does not guarantee a defendant a
letter-perfect defense or a successful defense; rather, the
performance standard is that of reasonably effective
assistance under the circumstances then obtaining."
United States v. Natanel, 938 F.2d 302, 309-10 (1st
defendant who claims that he was deprived of his Sixth
Amendment right to 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, 466 U.S. at 687-88, 694; see also
United States v. Manon,608 F.3d 126, 131 (1st Cir.
2010). 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). As for the second prong, or the prejudice
requirement, under Strickland, a "reasonable
probability is one sufficient to undermine confidence in the
outcome...In making the prejudice assessment, [the court]
focuses on the fundamental fairness of the proceeding."
Id. Unless the petitioner 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."). In sum, "[t]he ...