Ennis v. USA - 2255
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Ms. Ennis 6/10/13 sat). Signed by Chief Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 6/10/13. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
QUINITA JESSE ENNIS
Civil Action No. DKC 10-1015
Criminal Case No. DKC 08-0529
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Presently pending and ready for resolution is a motion to
Quinita Jesse Ennis.
(ECF No. 114).
The relevant issues have
been briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule
105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary.
For the reasons that
follow, the motion will be denied.
offenses arising from an armed bank robbery.
Pursuant to a
written agreement with the government, she pleaded guilty, on
December 29, 2008, to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery
(18 U.S.C. § 371), armed bank robbery (18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) &
(d)), and making a false statement in connection with a firearm
purchase (18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6)).
On June 1, 2009, she was
sentenced to a total term of imprisonment of 120 months, to be
followed by a five-year term of supervised release.
did not appeal.
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
(ECF No. 114).
was directed to respond, and did so on June 8, 2010.
Standard of Review
petitioner must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that
Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was
sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law[.]”
U.S.C. § 2255(a).
A pro se movant, such as Petitioner, is
See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151-53 (4th
But if the § 2255 motion, along with the files and
records of the case, “conclusively show[s] that the prisoner is
entitled to no relief,” the claims raised in the motion may be
See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
counsel based on allegations that her counsel failed to conduct
failed to object to enhancements under the guidelines, failed to
call character witnesses, and failed to devote appropriate time
knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by
the familiar standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Strickland
Petitioner must show both that her attorney’s performance fell
suffered actual prejudice as a result.
See Strickland, 466 U.S.
To demonstrate actual prejudice, Petitioner must show
that there is a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have
Id. at 694.
highly deferential; indeed, there exists a strong presumption
that counsel’s conduct falls within a wide range of reasonably
Id. at 688-89; Bunch v. Thompson, 949
reasonableness of attorney conduct “as of the time their actions
occurred, not the conduct’s consequences after the fact.”
performance if it is clear that no prejudice would have resulted
from the alleged deficiency.
See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.
burden in establishing ineffective assistance of counsel.
the Supreme Court recently explained, “[t]he plea process brings
to the criminal justice system a stability and a certainty that
must not be undermined by the prospect of collateral challenges
in cases . . . where witnesses and evidence were not presented
in the first place.”
Premo v. Moore, --- U.S. ----, 131 S.Ct.
733, 745-46 (2011).
Thus, a petitioner alleging ineffective
assistance in the context of a guilty plea has a “substantial
burden . . . to avoid the plea[.]”
Id. at 746.
That burden has not been met here.
Petitioner asserts that
her trial counsel failed to investigate her family history and
psychiatric background, but provides no substantiation for her
In fact, the record reflects that counsel apprised the
court of relevant facts regarding Petitioner’s background in a
sentencing memorandum and at the sentencing hearing.
unclear what additional facts could have impacted Petitioner’s
sentence, and Petitioner has failed to identify any.
while Petitioner contends that her counsel gave incorrect advice
concerning application of the sentencing guidelines and failed
to object to enhancements, she has not provided any specific
information regarding her counsel’s alleged shortcomings in this
Absent any allegation as to what advice was incorrect
or why any enhancement was improperly applied, she cannot meet
her heavy burden under Strickland.
Petitioner also faults her
counsel for failing to call character witnesses, but she has not
volunteered who those witnesses might have been or what they
members of Petitioner’s family were present at the sentencing
proceeding and her mother was permitted to address the court.
Insofar as Petitioner contends that her counsel failed to devote
sufficient time to the case, her claim is belied by the record.
At the plea colloquy, Petitioner was specifically asked whether
Even if she had not sworn to the contrary during the plea
colloquy, Petitioner’s bare assertion that her trial counsel did
not spend enough time working on the case could not satisfy
either prong of the Strickland analysis.
The Guilty Plea
amounts to an attempt by Petitioner to withdraw her guilty plea
The argument is, moreover, undermined by the
spelled-out in the plea agreement and reviewed by the court.
The procedure by which the court considers and accepts a
defendant’s guilty plea is set forth in Rule 11 of the Federal
defendant may be placed under oath and the court must advise and
understanding of the litany of rights waived as a result of
Before accepting the
plea, the court must determine that the plea is “voluntary and
did not result from force, threats, or promises (other than
promises in a plea agreement)” and that “there is a factual
basis for the plea.”
Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(b)(2), (3).
That procedure was scrupulously followed in this case, and
representations made under oath and may not attack the veracity
of those representations by way of a § 2255 motion.
States v. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 221-22 (4th Cir. 2005) (“[I]n
the absence of extraordinary circumstances, the truth of sworn
established, and a district court should, without holding an
evidentiary hearing, dismiss any § 2255 motion that necessarily
relies on allegations that contradict the sworn statements.”);
(conclusory assertions of innocence do not justify withdrawal of
a guilty plea); Fields v. Attorney Gen. of Md., 956 F.2d 1290,
1299 (4th Cir. 1992) (“Absent clear and convincing evidence to
the contrary, a defendant is bound by the representations he
presented no evidence in support of her claim that her plea was
not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.
Because the record
conclusively establishes that it was, her post hoc, conclusory
allegation to the contrary cannot prevail.
For the foregoing reasons, Petitioner’s motion to vacate,
set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 will
Pursuant to Rule 11(a) of the Rules Governing Proceedings
under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254 or 2255, the court is also required to
issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a
appealability is a “jurisdictional prerequisite” to an appeal
from the court’s order.
659 (4th Cir. 2007).
United States v. Hadden, 475 F.3d 652,
A certificate of appealability may issue
“only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right.”
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
Where the court denies a petitioner’s motion on its merits, a
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336–38 (2003); Slack v. McDaniel, 529
U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
Where a motion is denied on a procedural
ground, a certificate of appealability will not issue unless the
would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid
jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district
court was correct in its procedural ruling.”
Rose v. Lee, 252
F.3d 676, 684 (4th Cir. 2001) (internal marks omitted).
Petitioner does not satisfy the above standard.
will decline to issue a certificate of appealability.
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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