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Evans v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 21, 2017

CHANTELL EVANS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Mot.”) [Doc. No. 1]. The government has responded to the motion [Doc. No. 288] and Petitioner has replied [Doc. No. 290]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner pled guilty to the crime of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). She was sentenced to a term of sixty months' imprisonment and three years of supervised release. Appearing pro se, Petitioner now moves the Court to vacate, set aside or correct her sentence on the basis she received ineffective assistance of counsel. Mot. at 5-9. Because Petitioner proceeds pro se, the Court construes her motion liberally, but will not act as her advocate in constructing her arguments and searching the record. Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005).

         STANDARD OF DECISION

         A successful claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must meet the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), which has been extended to challenges to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance. See Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58 (1985); United States v. Hamilton, 510 F.3d 1209, 1216 (10th Cir. 2007). Under that test, Petitioner must show both that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) the deficient performance prejudiced her defense. Id. In reviewing Strickland claims, the Supreme Court has declined to articulate specific guidelines for appropriate attorney conduct and has instead emphasized that the “proper measure of attorney performance remains simply reasonableness under prevailing professional norms.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 521 (2003) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688).

         “In order to establish that h[er] attorney's performance was constitutionally deficient, [Petitioner] must show that the attorney's performance fell outside ‘the wide range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases.'” Hamilton, 510 F.3d at 1216 (citation omitted). In other words, Petitioner must show “that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. “[R]eview of counsel's performance” under Strickland's first prong is “highly deferential.” Byrd v. Workman, 645 F.3d 1159, 1168 (10th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hooks v. Workman, 606 F.3d 715, 723 (10th Cir. 2010)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[C]ounsel is strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.” Id. (quoting Dever v. Kansas State Penitentiary, 36 F.3d 1531, 1537 (10th Cir. 1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “There is a strong presumption that counsel provided effective assistance, and a section 2255 defendant has the burden of proof to overcome that presumption.” United States v. Kennedy, 225 F.3d 1187, 1197 (10th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted).

         The burden on a petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel is even higher when the alleged ineffective assistance resulted from an informed, strategic decision; counsel's “strategic choices made after thorough investigation of law and facts relevant to plausible options are virtually unchallengeable.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. Moreover, “[t]o demonstrate [s]he suffered prejudice as a result of the alleged deficiency, [Petitioner] ‘must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, [s]he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.'” Hamilton, 510 F.3d at 1216 (citation omitted). To this end, “the regrets engendered by hindsight do not render invalid a plea that was deemed-by both parties-a good bargain when the outcome of the case was still in doubt.” United States v. Thomas, 72 F.Supp.3d 24, 28 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115 (2011)).[1]

         DISCUSSION

         As summarized from her Motion and Reply, Petitioner contends her attorney's performance was deficient in the following ways:

• Presenting no defense;
• Explaining “very little” and missing meetings;
• Conducting no discovery;
• Not reviewing the pre-sentence investigation report ...

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