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Bingham v. United States

United States District Court, C.D. California

September 9, 2014



DAVID O. CARTER, District Judge.


Before the Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Mot." or "Motion") (LACV Dkt. 1, LACR Dkt. 6988). Upon considering Petitioner's Motion, the government's opposition, (LACR Dkt. 6996), and Petitioner's traverse (LACV Dkt. 10, LACR Dkt. 7077), the Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15; 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). For the reasons described below, the Court DENIES Petitioner's Motion.

I. Background

In 2002, a grand jury returned a ten-count indictment charging forty defendants with crimes related to the Aryan Brotherhood ("AB") prison gang. Indictment (LACR Dkt. 1). A five-month, multi-defendant trial followed.

The jury found Petitioner guilty of the following: (1) one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c); (2) one count of conspiracy to violate RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); (3) two counts of murder as violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR), 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1); and (4) one count of murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1111. Judgment and Commitment (LACR Dkt. 4194), at 1. The Court sentenced Petitioner to two sentences of life without the possibility of release, and three sentences of life. Id.

Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Federal Sentence (LACV Dkt. 1, LACR Dkt. 6988) on January 4, 2013. On January 8, 2013, the Court ordered a response. Order, Jan. 8, 2013 (LACV Dkt. 3, LACR Dkt. 6990). The Government filed its Corrected Opposition on March 8, 2013 (LACR Dkt. 6996). Petitioner filed his traverse on June 26, 2014 (LACV Dkt. 10, LACR Dkt. 7077).

II. Legal Standard

A motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence of a person in federal custody entitles a prisoner to relief "[i]f the court finds that... there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. If the motion combined with the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is not entitled to relief, no evidentiary hearing on the issues is warranted. See id.

A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Petitioner requests relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel ("IAC") in violation of the Sixth Amendment. There is a two prong test to challenge convictions based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57-60 (1985). First is the performance requirement: "[W]hen a convicted defendant complains of the ineffectiveness of counsel's assistance, the defendant must show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.'" Id. at 57 (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-688 (1984)). Second, the defendant must show that "there exists a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 375 (1986). This second prong is commonly referenced as the "prejudice requirement."

B. Prosecution's Withholding of Exculpatory Evidence

Petitioner also requests relief based on the failure of the prosecution to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense. The Supreme Court's holding in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), requires disclosure of all evidence that is favorable to the accused and material to guilt or to punishment. U.S. v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 674 (1985). The Brady rule is based on the requirement of due process, its purpose being to ensure that a miscarriage of justice does not occur. Id. at 675. The duty to disclose applies even in the absence of a request by the defendant. Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 280 (1999). Under Brady, an inadvertent nondisclosure has the same impact on the fairness of the proceedings as deliberate concealment. Id. at 288.

The prosecutor is required to disclose evidence favorable to the accused when its omission is material, that is, when the omission of evidence could affect the outcome of the trial. United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 108 (1976); Bagley, 473 U.S. at 678 (holding that evidence is material when its suppression undermines confidence in the outcome of the trial). In determining what evidence is material, the court must consider whether there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Bagley, 473 U.S. at 682. The reviewing court should ...

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