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Cox v. Copenhaven

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 7, 2013

JASON COX, Petitioner,
v.
COPENHAVEN, Warden, Respondent.

ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (Doc. 1)

MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), Petitioner has consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge. Local Rule 305(b). (ECF No. 3.)

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on October 12, 2012. (Pet., ECF No. 1.) On January 23, 2001, Petitioner was convicted by a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than fifty grams of cocaine base (crack), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(A)(iii), six counts of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and one count of possession of a firearm in connection with drug trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). See United States v. Cox, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85585 (D. Conn., Sep. 14. 2009). On May 17, 2001, Petitioner was sentenced to a total of 420 months of imprisonment. Id . On March 19, 2003, on direct appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. Cox v. United States, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26659, 3-4 (D. Conn. May 5, 2006). Subsequently, Petitioner challenged his conviction and sentence in the trial court, which denied Petitioner's the motion for writ of habeas corpus on May 5, 2006. Id . Petitioner further sought a motion for reduction of sentence which was denied by the trial court on September 11, 2009.

In the present petition, Petitioner claims that his conviction should be vacated based on improper jury instructions and ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner further claims that he is actually innocent of the conviction of the greater amount (50 grams) of cocaine base, and should have been convicted of a lesser included offense instead.

I. SCREENING THE PETITION

Because the petition was filed after April 24, 1996, the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), the AEDPA applies to the petition. Lindh v. Murphy , 521 U.S. 320, 327, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood , 114 F.3d 1484, 1499 (9th Cir. 1997).

The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (Habeas Rules) are appropriately applied to proceedings undertaken pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Habeas Rule 1(b). Habeas Rule 4 requires the Court to make a preliminary review of each petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Court must summarily dismiss a petition "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court...." Habeas Rule 4; O'Bremski v. Maass , 915 F.2d 418, 420 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Hendricks v. Vasquez , 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990). Habeas Rule 2(c) requires that a petition 1) specify all grounds of relief available to the Petitioner; 2) state the facts supporting each ground; and 3) state the relief requested. Notice pleading is not sufficient; rather, the petition must state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional error. Rule 4, Advisory Committee Notes, 1976 Adoption; O'Bremski v. Maass , 915 F.2d at 420 (quoting Blackledge v. Allison , 431 U.S. 63, 75 n. 7, 97 S.Ct. 1621, 52 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977)). Allegations in a petition that are vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible are subject to summary dismissal. Hendricks v. Vasquez , 908 F.2d at 491.

Further, the Court may dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus either on its own motion under Habeas Rule 4, pursuant to the respondent's motion to dismiss, or after an answer to the petition has been filed. Advisory Committee Notes to Habeas Rule 8, 1976 Adoption; see, Herbst v. Cook , 260 F.3d 1039, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. JURISDICTION

A federal prisoner who wishes to challenge the validity or constitutionality of his conviction or sentence must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Tripati v. Henman , 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir.1988). In such cases, only the sentencing court has jurisdiction. Id. at 1163. A prisoner may not collaterally attack a federal conviction or sentence by way of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hernandez v. Campbell , 204 F.3d 861, 865 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Generally, motions to contest the legality of a sentence must be filed under § 2255 in the sentencing court, while petitions that challenge the manner, location, or conditions of a sentence's execution must be brought pursuant to § 2241 in the custodial court."); Tripati , 843 F.2d at 1162.

In contrast, a federal prisoner challenging the manner, location, or conditions of that sentence's execution must bring a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hernandez , 204 F.3d at 865. Here, Petitioner is challenging the validity and constitutionality of his conviction. Therefore, the appropriate procedure would be to file a motion pursuant to § 2255 and not a habeas petition pursuant to § 2241.

The Ninth Circuit has recognized a narrow exception allowing a federal prisoner authorized to seek relief under § 2255 to seek relief under § 2241 if the remedy by motion under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the validity of his detention." Alaimalo v. United States , 636 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th Cir. 2011), citing Harrison v. Ollison , 519 F.3d 952, 956 (9th Cir. 2008). "This is called the savings clause' or escape hatch' of § 2255." Id . Furthermore, § 2255 petitions are rarely found to be inadequate or ineffective. Aronson v. May , 85 S.Ct. 3, 5, 13 L.Ed.2d 6 (1964) (a court's denial of a prior § 2255 motion is insufficient to render § 2255 inadequate.); Tripati , 843 F.2d at 1162-63 (9th Cir.1988) (a petitioner's fears of bias or unequal treatment do not render a § 2255 petition inadequate); Williams v. Heritage , 250 F.2d 390 (9th Cir.1957); Hildebrandt v. Swope , 229 F.2d 582 (9th Cir.1956). The burden is on the petitioner to show that the remedy is inadequate or ineffective. Redfield v. United States , 315 F.2d 76, 83 (9th Cir. 1963).

The Ninth Circuit has also "held that a § 2241 petition is available under the escape hatch' of § 2255 when a petitioner (1) makes a claim of actual innocence, and (2) has not had an unobstructed procedural shot' at presenting that claim. Stephens v. Herrera , 464 F.3d 895, 898 (9th Cir. 2006).

In this case, Petitioner is challenging the validity and constitutionality of his federal sentence imposed by a federal court, rather than an error in the administration of his sentence. Therefore, the appropriate procedure would be to file a motion pursuant to § 2255 in the ...


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