Stanley Cornell v. USA
Per Curiam OPINION filed: VACATED and REMANDED, decision not for publication pursuant to local rule 206. Boyce F. Martin , Jr. and David W. McKeague, Circuit Judges and Karen K. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of KY.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 12a0326n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Mar 26, 2012
LEONARD GREEN, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF
BEFORE: MARTIN and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges; CALDWELL, District Judge.*
PER CURIAM. Stanley Cornell appeals a district court order denying his motion to vacate
his sentence filed pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
A jury found Cornell guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) and knowingly using a communication facility to facilitate acts
constituting a felony, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b). He was also convicted of violating 21
U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) for possession and distribution of cocaine. The district court sentenced Cornell
to an effective term of life in prison. We affirmed the district court’s judgment on appeal. United
States v. Cornell, 162 F. App’x 404, 419 (6th Cir. 2006). The Supreme Court denied Cornell’s
petition for a writ of certiorari. Cornell v. United States, 549 U.S. 828 (2006).
In 2007, Cornell filed his motion to vacate, asserting that the prosecutor committed
misconduct by presenting the perjured testimony of Special Agent John Clayton. He stated that his
The Honorable Karen K. Caldwell, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of
Kentucky, sitting by designation.
-2trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to discover that Clayton gave false testimony
before the grand jury and by failing to impeach Clayton during trial with Clayton’s prior inconsistent
statements. Cornell subsequently moved to add additional claims to his motion to vacate. Cornell
alleged that the prosecutor committed misconduct by presenting the perjured testimony of Drug
Enforcement Administration Agent Lee Lucas. Cornell asserted that his trial counsel was ineffective
by failing to properly investigate Lucas’s background and to impeach Lucas during trial. Cornell
moved for leave to conduct discovery, seeking, among other things, documents concerning Lucas’s
actions in his and other cases.
A magistrate judge recommended denying Cornell’s motion to add claims regarding Lucas
and denying as moot Cornell’s motion for discovery to the extent it sought materials concerning
Lucas. The magistrate judge further recommended denying the motion to vacate. Over Cornell’s
objections, the district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation, denied the motion to
vacate, and declined to issue a certificate of appealability. In response to Cornell’s motion for
reconsideration, the district court vacated in part its prior denial of a certificate of appealability. The
court granted a certificate of appealability as to its denial of Cornell’s motion for discovery, his
claims concerning Lucas, and his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We declined to expand
the certificate of appealability.
On appeal, Cornell argues that: 1) the district court erred by denying him the opportunity to
conduct discovery relating to Lucas; 2) his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to
properly investigate Lucas’s background and to impeach him at trial; and 3) the prosecutor
committed misconduct by presenting Lucas’s perjured testimony and by withholding impeachment
evidence concerning Lucas.
When reviewing the denial of a section 2255 motion, we review legal issues de novo and
uphold factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Adams v. United States, 622 F.3d 608,
610-11 (6th Cir. 2010). We review the district court’s denial of discovery for an abuse of discretion.
Cornwell v. Bradshaw, 559 F.3d 398, 410 (6th Cir. 2009).
-3Under Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, a district court may
authorize a movant to conduct discovery upon a showing of good cause. Good cause is established
“‘where specific allegations . . . show reason to believe that [the movant] may, if the facts are fully
developed, be able to demonstrate’” entitlement to relief. Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 908-09
(1997) (quoting Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 300 (1969)); Williams v. Bagley, 380 F.3d 932, 974
(6th Cir. 2004).
We find that the district court abused its discretion in denying Cornell the opportunity to
conduct discovery relating to Agent Lucas. Our review of the record indicates that although Cornell
has not alleged specific facts tending to show that Lucas engaged in wrongdoing in this case, he has
identified a notorious history of misconduct by Lucas that gives us pause. See United States v.
Henderson, No. 1:07-CR-68, 2010 WL 3075079, at *2 (N.D. Ohio 2010 ). This history provides
reason to believe that Cornell may be able to demonstrate entitlement to relief if the facts are fully
Therefore, the district court’s order is vacated only insofar as it denies Cornell’s motion to
supplement or amend his § 2255 motion and denies Cornell’s motion to permit discovery. On
remand, the district court is instructed to (a) allow Cornell to engage in limited discovery relating
to Lucas’s participation in the investigation and prosecution of the charges against Cornell; and (b)
reconsider the motion to supplement or amend the § 2255 motion in light of the fruit of the discovery
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