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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 13, 2017



          OSTEEN, JR., District Judge

         Petitioner James J'Mori Jones, a federal prisoner, filed a motion and memorandum (Docs. 52, 53) seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner was the subject of a superseding indictment on August 26, 2013, charging him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) (Count One); possession of an unregistered firearm, in violation of 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(d) and 5871 (Count Two); possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (Count Three); and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(B)(i) (Count Four). (Doc. 14.) On December 11, 2013, Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial of Count One, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and was acquitted of Counts Three and Four.[1] (Doc. 25.) He was sentenced to fifty-four months of imprisonment. (Doc. 30.) His appeal was unsuccessful. See United States v. Jones, 622 Fed.Appx. 195, 198 (4th Cir. 2015). Petitioner next filed the instant § 2255 motion and memorandum. (Docs. 52, 53.) The Government filed a response. (Doc. 57.) Petitioner, in turn, filed a reply. (Doc. 60.) The matter is now before the Court for a ruling. See Rule 8, Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.


         Petitioner raises two grounds for relief. First, Petitioner contends that counsel materially misadvised him, to his prejudice, during the plea stage. (Pet'r's Mem. (Doc. 53) at 5 (“Absent counsel's advice, Petitioner would have accepted a plea that would have been accepted by the court, and the resulting sentence would have been less severe than the one imposed[.]”).) Second, Petitioner contends that he is actually innocent of constructively possessing the firearm. (Id. at 10.) As explained further below, the latter ground for relief has no merit and the former ground for relief requires an evidentiary hearing.


         A. Petitioner has not demonstrated his actual innocence

         Because Petitioner's second ground for relief can easily be resolved, the court addresses it first. Specifically, Petitioner contends the firearm charged in the § 922(g)(1) violation in Count One belonged to someone else and that he “is actually innocent of constructively possessing a firearm.” (Pet'r's Petition (Doc. 52), Ground Two.) Petitioner contends that there was insufficient evidence of constructive possession of the firearm. (Id.; Pet'r's Mem. (Doc. 53) at 10.) Petitioner contends too that his admission to a police officer that the firearm was his was insufficient for his conviction since there was no corroborating evidence. (Pet'r's Mem. (Doc. 53) at 11.)

         Petitioner raised this issue on appeal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected this issue as meritless. Specifically, that court reasoned:

During a police search of a home belonging to a friend of Jones, officers found a shotgun in the kitchen closet. Jones was present at the time of the search. When the shotgun was discovered, Jones stated that the gun was his. Officers never had the gun checked for fingerprints or tested for DNA. At trial, Jones testified that he lied to police when saying the gun was his because he did not want his friend to get in trouble.
We review challenges to the sufficiency of evidence de novo. United States v. Roe, 606 F.3d 180, 186 (4th Cir. 2010). “The standard for reversing a jury verdict of guilty is a high one: the Court does so only where the prosecution's failure is clear.” United States v. Perry, 757 F.3d 166, 175 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 1000, 190 L.Ed.2d 875 (2015). “The jury's verdict must be upheld on appeal if there is substantial evidence in the record to support it, where substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable finder of fact could accept as adequate and sufficient to support a conclusion of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). In assessing evidentiary sufficiency, the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom are viewed in the light most favorable to the Government. Id. We do not reassess the jury's determinations of witness credibility. United States v. Kelly, 510 F.3d 433, 440 (4th Cir. 2007).
Jones conceded at trial that he told police the gun was his, which was supported by the officer's testimony. Additionally, the officer testified that Jones later endorsed his admission at the sheriff's office. In reaching its verdict, the jury made a credibility determination as to the inconsistency between Jones's statement to police and his trial testimony, a determination that is not subject to our review. Therefore, Jones has not established that the evidence was insufficient.

Jones, 622 Fed.Appx. at 197 (footnote omitted).

         Claims raised and fully addressed on direct appeal cannot be reargued in a collateral proceeding. See Boeckenhaupt v.

         United States, 537 F.2d 1182, 1183 (4th Cir. 1976). The court concludes that this issue was raised and fully addressed on direct appeal. This court cannot overrule the Fourth Circuit on this issue and, therefore, this issue cannot be reargued in this proceeding. Nevertheless, even if the court could address this issue, it would reach the same conclusions as the Fourth Circuit for the same reasons expressed by the Fourth Circuit. Petitioner's arguments to the contrary are not persuasive. (Pet'r's Reply (Doc. 60) at 6-9.) Petitioner fails to take into account the requirement that the evidence, at this stage, be viewed in the light most favorable to the Government. (See, e.g., Trial Tr. Vol. 1 (Doc. 37) at 44 and 48; Trial Tr. Vol. 2 (Doc. 40) at 106.) He also fails to take into consideration ...

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