Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crawford v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 9, 2019

RICKY DOUGLAS CRAWFORD, JR., Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Osteen, Jr., District Judge

         Petitioner Ricky Douglas Crawford, Jr., a federal prisoner, brings a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 60.)

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this case, Petitioner was found guilty of one count of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), and one count of carry and use of a firearm, by discharging, during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). (See Doc. 21.) He was subsequently sentenced to 382 months imprisonment as a career offender. (Doc. 31.) Petitioner's career offender enhancement was based on prior North Carolina convictions of common law robbery and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. (Presentence Report (Doc. 26) ¶ 22.) Petitioner appealed his Judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and that court affirmed. (Docs. 51, 55.)

         On May 11, 2016, Petitioner submitted his § 2255 Motion. (Doc. 60.) In his § 2255 Motion, Petitioner raises four grounds for relief, challenging his convictions and sentence based on (1) prosecutorial misconduct; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel by both his trial and appellate counsel; (3) his contention that his prior conviction for common law robbery is no longer a crime of violence under the Guidelines; and (4) his contention that his conviction for armed bank robbery is not a crime of violence, and thus cannot support his § 924(c) conviction. (Id.) Petitioner also filed a Memorandum, (Doc. 61), which elaborates on each of his grounds for relief.

         The court previously stayed this matter pending the decision in Beckles v. United States, 580 U.S., 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). Based on the decision in that case, the stay was lifted and the briefing was completed. After Petitioner filed his original § 2255 Motion, he filed additional Amendments and Supplements, (Docs. 62, 66, 74, 75). In addition, Petitioner later filed a Motion to Amend, (Doc. 77), Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, (Doc. 78), and Motion for Appointment of Counsel, (Doc. 80).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Original § 2255 Motion

         In Petitioner's original § 2255 Motion, he presents four grounds for relief.

         1. Ground One - Prosecutorial Misconduct

         In Ground One, Petitioner contends that the prosecutor in his case engaged in misconduct on multiple occasions during his trial. In his § 2255 Motion, Petitioner alleges that

[The] Prosecutor . . . read aloud to the jury a letter allegedly written by the [Petitioner] during his rebuttal, compelling [the Petitioner] to be a witness against himself. Prosecutor introduced Shunta L. Frazier as a witness (jail-house informant) to recall a conversation between him and the [Petitioner], which was misleading the jury to believe it was a confession. Prosecutor called an alleged accomplice as a witness, Shiheem Williamson, the statements against interest were not supported by corroborating circumstances as required. Prosecutor did not provide any proof that the [Petitioner] gained knowledge of a confederates intent to carry or use a gun, other than [the] alleged accomplice's testimony.

(Motion (Doc. 60) ¶ 12 (Ground One).)

         Thus, it appears that Petitioner brings four individual claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Petitioner's first claim appears to be challenging the prosecutor's remarks during his rebuttal argument. “Our circuit has a two-pronged test for determining whether a prosecutor's misconduct in closing argument so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process. Specifically, a defendant must show [1] that the [prosecutor's] remarks were improper and [2] that they prejudicially affected the defendant's substantial rights so as to deprive [him] of a fair trial.” United States v. Wilson, 135 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted). In this case, Petitioner argues that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by reading aloud a letter that was written by Petitioner and addressed to Shiheem Williamson, who was Petitioner's cousin and alleged accomplice. (Memorandum (Doc. 61) at 7.) Petitioner alleges that the reading of this letter to the jury amounted to compelling him to be a witness against himself and thus violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. (Id.) However, Petitioner does not provide any basis to find that the prosecutor's reading of the letter that had previously been admitted into evidence was improper. Furthermore, Petitioner cannot show that reading the letter during closing arguments prejudicially affected Petitioner's substantial rights so as to deprive him of a fair trial. The letter had already been introduced into evidence in full prior to this statement, and even absent the letter, there was other substantial evidence introduced to establish Petitioner's guilt. Finally, the court gave curative instructions to the extent that any part of the prosecutor's statement implied any type of burden shifting. (See Trial Tr., Vol. 4 (Doc. 43) at 58-64.) For all of these reasons, this claim fails as a matter of law.[1]

         Petitioner next alleges that the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Shunta Frazier, misled the jury to believe that Petitioner confessed. (See Motion (Doc. 60) ¶ 12.) It appears that Petitioner alleges that Mr. Frazier was an agent for the government or a confidential informant placed in his cell to improperly elicit information from him. (See Memorandum (Doc. 61) at 4-6.) However, he provides no support for this conclusory allegation. See United States v. Dyess, 730 F.3d 354, 359 (4th Cir. 2013) (“[C]onclusory allegations contained in a § 2255 petition may be disposed of without further investigation by the [d]istrict [c]ourt.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Petitioner also argues that the prosecutor characterized the testimony from Mr. Frazier as a “confession” by Petitioner, which amounted to prosecutorial misconduct. (Motion (Doc. 60) ¶12.) However, it is not clear how such a characterization would amount to prosecutorial misconduct. Moreover, the trial transcript does not support Petitioner's allegation that this prior conversation between Mr. Frazier and Petitioner was in any way characterized as a confession. Specifically, throughout Mr. Frazier's testimony, the prosecutor questioned Mr. Frazier about any “conversations” he may have had with Petitioner, but does not make any reference to a “confession.” (See Trial Tr., Vol. 3 (Doc. 41)] at 201-06.) Indeed, it appears that Petitioner is actually seeking to raise an evidentiary challenge to the introduction of Mr. Frazier's testimony in full, rather than a prosecutorial misconduct challenge. In this regard, Petitioner contends that Mr. Frazier's testimony was inadmissible because it was not supported by corroborating evidence. However, this argument also does not afford Petitioner any relief. Petitioner does not provide any basis for requiring corroborating evidence, and Petitioner has not presented any reason to conclude that the testimony would be inadmissible. Based on later arguments, Petitioner may be contending that the evidence was admitted under Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3) as an exception to the general rule against hearsay and that corroboration was therefore required. However, Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3) did not apply; instead, under Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2), Mr. Frazier's testimony as to Petitioner's statements was not hearsay at all, and this claim is meritless.[2]

         Petitioner similarly contends that the prosecutor committed misconduct by calling his alleged accomplice Shiheem Williamson to testify when the testimony was not supported by corroborating evidence. As with his prior contention as to Mr. Frazier, Petitioner appears to be challenging the admissibility of Mr. Williamson's testimony based upon the lack of corroboration. However, the court notes that on direct appeal to the Fourth Circuit, Petitioner raised a challenge to the admissibility Mr. Williamson's testimony, and this argument was rejected by the Fourth Circuit. United States v. Crawford, 626 Fed.Appx. 405, 408 (4th Cir. 2015). Petitioner cannot challenge Mr. Williamson's testimony on collateral review after litigating this challenge on direct appeal. Boeckenhaupt v. United States, 537 F.2d 1182, 1183 (4th Cir. 1976). To the extent Petitioner's claim here differs from his challenge to Mr. Williamson's testimony on appeal, it fails on its merits. Petitioner again appears to claim that the testimony needed corroboration because it was admitted under Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3) as an exception to the general rule against hearsay. However, under Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2), Williamson's testimony as to Petitioner's statements was not hearsay at all. Therefore, Petitioner's claim fails as a matter of law and will be denied.

         In his final contention in Ground One, Petitioner argues that the Government did not satisfy its burden of proof because the prosecutor did not show that Petitioner had knowledge of his alleged accomplice's intent to use or possess the gun. Petitioner argues that the Government did not present sufficient evidence to prove possession or use of the gun because there was no firearm found on Petitioner and because the testimony of the alleged accomplice, Mr. Williamson, was not supported by corroborating evidence. (See Memorandum (Doc. 61) at 4.) As previously noted, Petitioner's challenge as to Mr. Williamson's testimony fails as a matter of law under Boeckenhaupt and is meritless in any event. To the extent that Petitioner is challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the Government, that claim also fails as a matter of law under Boeckenhaupt. At the conclusion of Petitioner's trial, he brought a Rule 29 motion raising such a challenge, which was denied by the court. (See Trial Tr., Vol. 3 (Doc. 43) at 26-27.) On direct appeal, Petitioner challenged the denial of his Rule 29 motion, and the Fourth Circuit rejected that challenge. Crawford, 626 Fed.Appx. at 408. As previously noted, Petitioner cannot use § 2255 to re-litigate an issue that has already been ruled on during direct appeal. Therefore, Petitioner's challenges as to the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the Government also fail as a matter of law and will be denied.

         2. Ground Two - Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.