United States District Court, D. Delaware
Barnes. Pro se Movant.
Weede, Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for
ANDREWS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Movant Kevin Barnes' pro se
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255. (D.I. 65) The Government filed an
Answer in Opposition. (D.I. 84) For the reasons that follow,
the Court will deny Movant's § 2255 Motion.
28, 2015, Movant pled guilty to: (1) possession of a
controlled substance with intent to distribute, in violation
of 18 U.S. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); (2) use of
firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii); and (3)
possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g). (D.I. 25) The Court sentenced him to a total
of eighty months of incarceration and four years of
supervised release. (D.I. 39)
appealed, asserting that he was improperly denied a
sentencing departure and that defense counsel should have
raised a self-defense/justification defense. See United
States v. Barnes, 677 Fed.Appx. 786, 787-88 (3d Cir.
2017). The Third Circuit affirmed Movant's conviction and
sentence after concluding that: (1) the appellate waiver in
Movant's plea agreement was enforceable and precluded him
from challenging his sentence on appeal; and (2) Movant's
ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not cognizable on
direct appeal and had to be asserted in a collateral
proceeding. Id. at 788-89.
March 30, 2017, Movant filed a § 2255 Motion. (D.I. 65)
The Government filed an Answer in Opposition (D.I. 84), to
which Movant filed a Response. (D.I. 86)
timely filed § 2255 Motion asserts the following two
grounds for relief: (1) defense counsel provided ineffective
assistance during the plea process by failing to determine
that there were sufficient facts to support a justification
defense and/or an affirmative self-defense argument; and (2)
defense counsel provided ineffective assistance during the
sentencing phase by waiting until the morning of the
sentencing hearing to provide Movant with a copy of the
presentence report ("PSR"), by failing to notify
the Court about Movant's mental health issues that were
caused by the home invasion on the night of his arrest, and
by failing to submit any mitigating argument pursuant to
U.S.S.G. § 5K2.12 - Coercion and Duress (Policy
has properly raised his ineffective assistance of counsel
allegations in a § 2255 motion. See Massaro v.
United States, 538 U.S. 500 (2003). As a general rule,
ineffective assistance of counsel claims are reviewed
pursuant to the two-pronged standard established in
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under
the first ("performance") prong of the
Strickland standard, Movant must demonstrate that
"counsel's representation fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness, " with reasonableness being
judged under professional norms prevailing at the time
counsel rendered assistance. Id. at 688. Under the
second ("prejudice") prong of the
Strickland standard, Movant must demonstrate a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's error, the
outcome of the proceeding would have been different.
Id. at 694. In the context of a guilty plea, a
movant satisfies Strickland's prejudice prong by
demonstrating that, but for counsel's error, there is a
reasonable probability he would have insisted on proceeding
to trial instead of pleading guilty. See Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985); United States v.
Nahodil, 36 F.3d 323, 326 (3d Cir. 1994). A court can
choose to address the prejudice prong before the performance
prong, and reject an ineffectiveness claim solely on the
ground that the defendant was not prejudiced. See
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 696. Finally, although not
insurmountable, the Strickland standard is highly
demanding and leads to a strong presumption that
counsel's representation was professionally reasonable.
Id. at 689.
Claim One: Ineffective Assistance During Plea
Claim One, Movant contends that defense counsel provided
ineffective assistance during the plea process by failing to
adequately investigate the case and determine that Movant
could have presented a justification/self-defense argument
showing that Movant only possessed the guns because he had
received serious threats to his life from his
girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. Movant states he would have
proceeded to trial had he known he could have raised such a
defense. (D.I. 65 at 5) For the following reasons, the Court
concludes that Claim One does not warrant relief.
well-settled that "[s]olemn declarations in open court
carry a strong presumption of verity" that creates a
"formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral
proceedings." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S.
63, 74 (1977). Here, the transcript of the plea colloquy
contains Movant's clear and explicit statements that he
had discussed his case with defense counsel, he was fully
satisfied with counsel's advice, he had a full
opportunity to review the Plea Agreement with counsel, there
were no promises other than those contained in the Plea
Agreement, and he was not forced to enter the Plea Agreement.
(D.I. 53 at 5:20-7:13, 12:25-15:1) The Court also had the
prosecutor summarize the Plea Agreement for Movant to ensure
that he understood its terms, and asked various follow-up
questions to confirm that Movant understood its effect on the
balance of the criminal proceedings. (D.I. 53 at 8:2-13:8;
15:3-17:6) Movant indicated that he understood the factual
basis for his guilty plea, that he understood he had a right
to proceed to trial, that he was pleading guilty of his own
free will because he was guilty, and that he understood the
sentencing process and the applicability of the sentencing
guidelines. (D.I. 53 at ...