Friday, January 5, 2007

Anderson v. United States (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Decided January 4, 2007—Opinion by Chief Judge Benson Everett Legg.

Rachelle Anderson was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to (i) sell and offer for sale drug paraphernalia in violation of 21 U.S.C. §863(a)(1), and to (ii) aid and abet the distribution of and possession with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine hydrochloride, and cocaine base. The 4th Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Just nine days before the expiration of the applicable one-year limitation, Anderson filed a Motion to Vacate, pro se. Her motion alleged that:

(i) her attorney was ineffective;

(ii) the Court erred when it refused to read the entire paraphernalia statute during its instructions to the jury;

(iii) her sentence violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004).

(iv) the Court erred in determining drug quantity for purposes of sentencing; and

(v) because she did not play a managerial role in the conspiracy, her three-level increase under U.S.S.G. §3B1.1 was erroneous.

Several weeks after the government filed its opposition brief, and more than five months beyond the one-year limitations period, Anderson filed a reply brief in which she offered additional support for her original claims and asserted new claims. She later amended her motion again, raising even more claims not contained in her original motion.

The Court held that certain of Anderson's claims were time-barred because she could have but did not assert them in her original motion, while others had already been decided by the 4th Circuit on the previous appeal.

Considering and then rejecting all but one of Anderson's remaining ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the Court determined that the Government had not adequately responded to one of them, concerning the handling of one juror's misconduct and its affect on the other jurors. As to that issue only, the Court ordered supplemental briefing by the Government.

Finally, the Court rejected Anderson's claim that the trial court had violated her constitutional rights by increasing her offense level under the federal sentencing guidelines based on facts not considered by the jury or charged in the indictment. Though Anderson did not cite to United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), which extended Blakely to the federal sentencing guidelines, the Court assumed that she also relied on Booker. Because the 4th Circuit has held that the rule announced in Booker is unavailable for post-conviction relief where convictions became final before it (or Blakely) was decided, the Court determined that the Booker rule did not apply retroactively to Anderson's sentence and thus it denied that claim.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

No comments: