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Roberts v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

October 24, 2019

ERNEST RAYMOND ROBERTS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE THE PETITION

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Ernest Raymond Roberts (Roberts), proceeding pro se, brought a motion to vacate his sentence (Roberts's motion or Petition) alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court has jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         Pending before the Court are Roberts's motion and Respondent United States of America's (Respondent) motion to dismiss. Having carefully considered Roberts's motion, Respondent's motion, Roberts's response, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Respondent's motion to dismiss will be granted and Roberts's motion will be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The grand jury indicted Roberts on one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He proceeded to trial, where he was represented by counsel, Jeremy Thompson (Thompson). During deliberations, the jury sent a note to the Court stating the jury remained deadlocked after a day of deliberations. The Court, over the objection of Thompson, provided an Allen charge to the jury. After further deliberations, the jury found Roberts guilty of the charged offense.

         Thompson represented Roberts at trial and on appeal. In the appeal, Thompson challenged whether the Court abused its discretion in admitting the drugs into evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a). Thompson requested and received transcripts of portions of the trial for the appeal. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Court's ruling on November 13, 2018. Roberts timely filed this motion on March 1, 2019. Respondent filed its motion to dismiss the Petition and Roberts filed a response to that motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must demonstrate two elements: 1) “counsel's performance was deficient, ” and 2) “the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.” Strickland v. Washington, 486 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).

         The first element analyzes whether trial counsel provided “reasonably effective assistance.” Id. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential.” Id. at 689. There is “a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id.

         The second element “requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” Id. at 687. The defendant raising an ineffective assistance challenge has an affirmative obligation to prove prejudice. Id. at 693.

         IV. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         Roberts raises two arguments for ineffective assistance of counsel he says requires vacating his sentence: 1) Thompson neglected to request and receive a full, complete, and accurate transcript of the trial proceedings for appeal, and 2) Thompson failed to appeal the Court's language in the provided Allen charge. Both arguments lack merit and the Court addresses each in turn.

         A. Whether failure to request a full transcript of all trial court proceedings constitutes ...


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