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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 8, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
DOUGLAS LEROY MARTIN, Defendant/Movant. Civil Action No. 5:16-440-DCR


          Danny C. Reeves United States District Judge.

         Douglas Martin is a federal inmate, currently housed at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution. Proceeding without counsel, Martin filed a motion seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on November 23, 2016.[1] [Record No. 311] The motion was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for issuance of a recommended disposition in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), . Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier issued a Recommended Disposition on April 12, 2017, recommending that the Court deny the motion, deny Martin's request for an evidentiary hearing, and decline to issue a Certificate of Appealability. [Record No. 329] Martin filed objections to the Recommended Disposition on May 9, 2017. [Record No. 330]

         De novo is required of any portion of the magistrate judge's disposition to which objections have been filed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court has considered Martin's objections and conducted a de novo review of his claims. Martin's objections will be overruled and his motion denied for the following reasons.


         Law enforcement officers stopped a vehicle for speeding near Paris, Kentucky, during the early hours of March 15, 2013. [Pre-Sentence Report (“PSR”), p. 4] The officers requested that the four occupants (Martin and his co-defendants Aniema Udousoro, Andre Hawkins, and Jessica Cavezza) exit the vehicle due to the odor of marijuana coming from its interior. [Id.] A subsequent search of the car and occupants revealed a loaded gun on Udousuro's person, large quantities of cash and a small bag of marijuana. [Id.] The defendants admitted that they had just completed narcotics sales at the nearby Red Roof Inn in statements to the officers. [Id. at 5]

         Martin was arrested as a result of the traffic stop. [Id.] Martin later contacted co-Defendant Cavezza by telephone while he was housed at the Fayette County Detention Center. [Id. at 6] He directed Cavezza to attribute the drugs involved in the conspiracy to Hawkins. He further indicated that he had information concerning her pending court date, her attorney's name, and her residence. [Id.]

         A grand jury indicted Martin and several others for conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone on June 6, 2013. [Record No. 1] The grand jury returned a superseding indictment on October 3, 2013, which charged a longer period for the conspiracy and charged Martin individually with using or attempting to use intimidation, threats, or corrupt persuasion toward Cavezza with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent her testimony in a jury trial or other official proceeding. [Record No. 103]

         A jury ultimately convicted Martin of the controlled substances conspiracy and of witness tampering. [Record No. 125] Martin was sentenced on March 24, 2014, to a 151-month term of imprisonment followed by 6 years of supervised release. [Record No. 202] He subsequently appealed, arguing that his sentence was unreasonable, that information obtained during warrantless searches should have been suppressed, and that there was insufficient proof to support his conviction for witness tampering. [Record No. 291] However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed Martin's conviction and sentence. [Id.]


         A defendant seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 may assert that: the sentence was imposed in violation of the United States Constitution or federal law; the Court lacked jurisdiction; his or her sentence exceeded the maximum penalty authorized by law; or the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). To prevail on a claim of constitutional error, a defendant must establish an error of constitutional magnitude that had a substantial and injurious effect or impact on the proceedings. Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999). For a claim of nonconstitutional error, a defendant must show a “fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice, or, an error so egregious that it amounts to a violation of due process.” Id. (quoting United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.3d 627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990)) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         Martin moves for relief under § 2255 based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. [Record No. 311] He first argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to secure a favorable plea bargain, failing to properly argue against the imposition of a two-level enhancement for his co-conspirator's possession of a firearm, and failure to properly argue against a four-level enhancement for his role as an organizer or leader. [Id.] Next, he contends that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the imposition of sentencing enhancements for his co-defendant's possession of a firearm, Martin's role as an organizer or leader, and obstruction. [Id.] Martin argues in his objections to the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Disposition that his counsel was ineffective for failing to secure a favorable plea bargain and also raises an issue not presented to the Magistrate Judge-that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to interview several witnesses. [Record No. 330]

         Ineffective assistance of counsel is a mixed question of law and fact that is reviewed under the test established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To succeed, a defendant must show that (i) counsel's performance was deficient by falling “below an objective standard of reasonableness” and (ii) the defendant was “prejudiced” by the deficient performance. Id. at 687, 688.

         To determine deficient performance, the court must “conduct an objective review of [counsel's] performance, measured for ‘reasonableness under prevailing professional norms, ' which includes a context-dependent consideration of the challenged conduct as seen ‘from counsel's perspective at the time.'” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 523 (2003) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688-89) (internal citation omitted); Poindexter v. Mitchell, 454 F.3d 564, 577 (6th Cir. 2006). Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance is “highly deferential” with a “strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance . . . .” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.

         To establish prejudice, “[t]he defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 694. The Sixth Circuit has held “that a petitioner need not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the result would have been different, but merely that there is a reasonable probability that the result would have been different.” Skaggs v. Parker, 235 F.3d 261, 271 (6th Cir. 2000).

         A. Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel

         i. ...

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