Jackson v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 6/14/2017. (krs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Civil Action No. ELH-17-1537
Related Crim. No. BEL-97-246
John Jackson has petitioned for a writ of coram nobis pursuant to the All Writs Acts, 28
U.S.C. §1651. ECF 1 (“Petition”). He claims his conviction in United States v Jackson,
Criminal Action BEL-No. 97-246 (D. Md. 2000), was obtained through the use of false evidence
and false testimony. ECF 1 at 6-8. Although Jackson has completed his term of incarceration as
well as his term of supervised release, he contends that the “stain” of his conviction is a lifetime
handicap that threatens his social standing and employment opportunities. Id. at 6.
After a jury trial in July and August of 2000, Jackson was convicted of conspiracy to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or
more of cocaine base. See United States v. Jackson, Criminal Action No. BEL-97-246. The
court sentenced Jackson on November 17, 2000, to a term of 188 months of imprisonment and
five years of supervised release. ECF 141 (Judgment).1 Thereafter, Jackson noted an appeal to
the Fourth Circuit. ECF 142.
Unless otherwise noted, when citing to electronic filings (e.g., ECF), the citations
pertain to the underlying criminal case, BEL-97-246.
The United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit rejected Jackson’s contention that the
evidence was insufficient to convict him.
It also rejected Jackson’s contention that the
government had created a fatal variance between the indictment and proof. The Court affirmed
the conviction. See United States v. Jackson, 28 Fed. Appx. 291 (4th Cir. 2002); see also BEL97-246, ECF 162; ECF 173.
The Supreme Court denied Jackson's petition for a writ of
certiorari. See Jackson v. United States, 123 S.Ct. 161 (2002).
Motion to Vacate
A. First Motion to Vacate
On August 28, 2003, Jackson filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255. ECF 174. He claimed, inter alia, that the evidence was false and
insufficient to sustain his conviction. See Civil Action No. BEL-03-2502 (D. Md. 2006).
Specifically, Jackson argued that he was denied due process because the grand jury
indicted him on the basis of evidence that proved inaccurate at trial, and but for this “false’
testimony, he never would have been indicted. The court found Jackson’s claims meritless and
denied the motion to vacate on December 27, 2006. ECF 197; ECF 198; see also Jackson v.
United States, 473 F. Supp. 2d 640, 643 (D. Md. 2006).
In denying the motion to vacate, the Honorable Benson E. Legg described the procedural
background of the case. He recounted that on June 27, 1997, a federal grand jury handed down a
five-count indictment against Jackson and three codefendants: Eric Batson; James Kane; and
Leroy Yuman. Count I charged the defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine
base (“crack”), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 846. Jackson was not named in Counts
II–V, which charged individual acts of distribution. 473 F. Supp. 2d at 642.4 From June 1999 to
March 2000, Jackson and the government explored a plea bargain and, after the discussions
failed, trial was scheduled for July 31, 2000. Judge Legg wrote, 473 F. Supp. 2d at 642:
As was customary in the District of Maryland and elsewhere, the
original indictment did not allege a drug quantity. On June 26, 2000,
the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Apprendi v. New
Jersey. On July 20, 2000, the government obtained a superseding
indictment that specified the drug quantity (more than five kilograms
of cocaine and fifty grams of crack) attributable to the conspiracy
charged in Count I. Other than this addition, and the deletion of the
names of the co-conspirators who had pleaded guilty, the superseding
indictment was identical to the conspiracy count in the original
Jackson then moved for a continuance, arguing that the government had “broadened” its
prosecution. The court heard argument and denied the motion, finding that the superseding
indictment did not raise any additional factual or legal issues and that Jackson would not be
prejudiced by proceeding to trial as scheduled. Id.
In his decision rejecting post conviction relief, Judge Legg ruled that because Jackson did
not appeal the issue, he was procedurally barred from raising it in his post conviction petition.
Contrary to Jackson’s claim that there was new evidence to demonstrate his innocence, Judge
Legg found that the “new” evidence consisted of the grand jury transcripts that counsel had used
to cross-examine the government's witnesses, and this evidence did not establish Jackson's
innocence. Id. at 643. Counsel had brought the grand jury testimony to the petit jury's attention,
and they nonetheless convicted Jackson. Id. Further, Judge Legg noted that, even if Jackson’s
claim was not procedurally defaulted, it lacked merit because a conviction typically cannot be
challenged by attacking the charging instrument, and no exceptions applied. Id. at 644 (citing
United States v. Mechanik, 475 U.S. 66, 73 (1986); United States v. Higgs, 353 F.3d 281, 304–07
(4th Cir. 2003)).
On January 18, 2007, Jackson filed a motion for reconsideration of the order denying his
motion to vacate. ECF 199. It was denied on August 31, 2007. ECF 202. He filed a second
motion for reconsideration on September 27, 2007 (ECF 203), which was denied on December 7,
2007. ECF 207.
On January 24, 2008, Jackson filed a notice of appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 208.
While the appeal was pending, Jackson filed a motion for reduction of sentence pursuant to 18
U.S.C. §3582(c)(2), based on the retroactive application of the “Crack Amendment” to the
United States Sentencing Guidelines. ECF 211. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal based
on the pending §3582 motion. ECF 216. On June 18, 2009, the court reduced Jackson’s
sentence to 151 months, based on the amendment. ECF 236; see Jackson v. United States, Civil
Action No. BEL-10-51.
B. Second Motion to Vacate
On January 7, 2010, Jackson filed a second Motion to Vacate, again alleging he was
convicted based on “false evidence” in the superseding indicting. ECF 238; see also Jackson v.
United States, Civil Action No. BEL-10-51, ECF 3; ECF 4. The motion was dismissed on
March 25, 2010, without prejudice, for lack of jurisdiction. BEL-97-0246, ECF 245; ECF 246.
C. Third Motion to Vacate
On March 8, 2011, Jackson filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Fed. R.
Civ. P. 60(b)(6). ECF 247. The court treated it as a successive motion to vacate. ECF 248. In
that motion, Jackson claimed the evidence presented to the grand jury was fictitious and denied
him due process. See United States v Jackson, Civil Action No. BEL-11-642 (D. Md. 2011). On
March 22, 2010, the court dismissed the motion, without prejudice, for lack of jurisdiction. ECF
250; see also ECF 249. Jackson noted an appeal. ECF 251. On July 25, 2011, the Fourth
Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. ECF 256. The mandate issued on September 16,
2011. ECF 257.
A coram nobis petition is a collateral proceeding through which a court may correct
fundamental errors in a prior final judgment. United States v. Morgan, 346 U.S. 502, 511 (1954).
This writ is used where “no other remedy may be available” and there is “error of the most
fundamental character.” United States v. Mandel, 862 F.2d, 1067, 1075 (4th Cir. 1988). In
situations where, as here, a petitioner has completed the sentence at issue, a federal court may
grant relief from a conviction by way of coram nobis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (2006); Morgan, 346
U.S. at 512-13.
Coram nobis is available only to remedy “factual errors material to the validity and
regularity of the legal proceeding itself.” Carlisle v. United States, 517 U.S. 416, 429 (1996)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has observed that “it is difficult to
conceive of a situation in a federal criminal case today where a writ of coram nobis would be
necessary or appropriate.” Id. at 429.
To be entitled to coram nobis relief, a petitioner must satisfy four requirements: “(1) a
more usual remedy is not available; (2) valid reasons exist for not attacking the conviction
earlier; (3) adverse consequences exist from the conviction sufficient to satisfy the case or
controversy requirement of Article III; and (4) the error is of the most fundamental character.”
United States v. Akinsade, 686 F.3d 248, 252 (4th. Cir. 2012) (citing Hirabayashi v. United
States, 828 F.2d 591, 604 (9th Cir. 1987)).
Jackson has met the first requirement because he cannot seek relief under the typical
remedies for a direct or collateral attack of a federal judgment and sentence, in that he is no
longer in custody. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255; 28 U.S.C. § 2241; see also Akinsade, 686 F.3d. at 484.
The second requirement does not apply, because Jackson challenged his conviction on direct
appeal and on collateral review, and his claims were denied on the merits.
As to the third requirement, Jackson has failed to demonstrate that alleged threats to
social status or career development constitute adverse consequences sufficient to satisfy the case
or controversy requirement of Article III. Harm to reputation is insufficient to demonstrate
continuing adverse legal consequence. United States v. National Plastikwear Fashions, Inc., 368
F.2d 845 (2d Cir. 1966) (per curiam) (stating that “desire to be rid of the stigma” is not enough);
see United States v. Liffiton, 159 F.3d 1349 (2d Cir. 1998) (unpublished) (“Reputational harm,
standing alone, does not satisfy the continuing legal consequences requirement for obtaining
coram nobis relief.”); United States v. Osser, 864 F.2d 1056, 1060 (3d Cir. 1988) (“Damage to
reputation is not enough.”). And, purely speculative employment harm is not cognizable for
purposes of coram nobis relief. See Fleming v. United States, 146 F.3d 88, 91 (2d Cir. 1998)
(stating that inability to find employment was purely speculative and insufficient for coram nobis
relief when petitioner did not show that he had sought employment).
Last, even if the alleged error were considered as fundamental, a writ of error coram
nobis may not be used to relitigate a matter previously raised by petitioner and adjudicated. See,
e.g., United States ex rel. Bogish v. Tees, 211 F.2d 69, 72 (3rd Cir. 1954) (noting claims
attacking the competency of the evidence were fully considered on appeal, rejected, and involved
no questions so fundamental that they may be raised on a writ of coram nobis); Roberts v. United
States, 158 F.2d 150, 151 (4th Cir. 1946); United States v Lee, No. 5:89 CR 237, 2013 WL
4591220, at *2 (N.D. W.Va. August 28, 2013). Jackson’s claim that he was indicted based on
false evidence was considered and rejected on the merits on direct appeal and collateral review.
Coram nobis is unavailable to relitigate the claim.
For these reasons, I shall deny the Petition. And, I decline to issue a certificate of
appealability. This is because reasonable jurists would not debate whether the Petition states a
valid claim as to the denial of a constitutional right or the court's procedural rulings with respect
to petitioner's claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000);
see also Buck v. Davis, 137 S. Ct. 759, 773-74 (2017).
A separate Order follows.
June 14, 2017
Ellen L. Hollander
United States District Judge
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