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Craig v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 18, 2017

CHRISTOPHER JERMAINE CRAIG, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On February 14, 2012, after a two-day trial, a jury convicted Christopher Jermaine Craig of possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The court sentenced Mr. Craig to 70 months in custody. Mr. Craig filed this motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (Civ. Doc. I).[1] A prisoner "claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States . . . may move the court... to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mr. Craig's motion asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) at trial, based on counsel's failure to object to his retrial as a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment; (2) at sentencing, based on counsel's failure to properly investigate and object to the calculation of his advisory sentencing guidelines range; and (3) on appeal, based on counsel's failure to raise a number of issues that Mr. Craig wanted counsel to raise. The court finds that the motion is due to be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 26, 2011, Mr. Craig was indicted on one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), being a felon in possession of a firearm. At Mr. Craig's first trial in January 2012, Assistant Federal Public Defender Glennon Threatt represented him. That trial ended in a mistrial. An ATF agent and Birmingham city police officers, within sight of some of the jurors, had detained Johnetta Jackson-Mr. Craig's cousin and a defense witness who had just testified-and Mr. Craig's brother. The agent and officers then arrested Ms. Jackson (but not Mr. Craig's brother) because she had at least one outstanding warrant for her arrest. Officers handcuffed Ms. Jackson in front of the courthouse and then drove her away in a patrol car. When questioned later about the incident, none of the jurors admitted having seen her handcuffed or driven away.

         Following this incident, the court met with defense attorney Mr. Threatt, and the prosecutor, Enid Athanas, in chambers, where the following discussion took place.

THE COURT: I understand we may have had an incident on the courthouse steps.
MR. THREATT: I am livid about this. This is what I understand happened. After Ms. Jackson testified, she was leaving the building and Agent Tucker asked one of our jurors to stop her, the juror called out Ms. Jackson's name and then she was arrested. Now, by the time I got downstairs, she was in handcuffs less than ten feet from the entrance of this building. In addition to that, his brother was also detained by Birmingham Police but he was not arrested.
MS. ATHANAS: I understood he had warrants outstanding, and there was another potential witness who had warrants outstanding. Once they left the courthouse grounds, they would be arrested because they had outstanding warrants. First of all, my belief was that we would all be up here in the courtroom, jurors included, that that would occur outside the presence of any sort of jurors at all. Second of all, I can't even fathom that Ms. Tucker would have, I mean, I can't even believe that this happened. That is unbelievable to me that that occurred. And if it did, it's horrifying.
THE COURT: I agree. A juror was asked to stop her.
MR. THREATT: Yes.
THE COURT: Do you know which juror?
MR. THREATT: My client's brother and his wife were with Ms. Jackson and saw the juror and believe they can identify them.
THE COURT: Do they know which one?
MR. THREATT: They could identify the juror. I could ask them to describe them, if Your Honor wants. I am moving for a mistrial. I don't know why the police didn't tell your courtroom - I could understand them not telling you. I don't understand courtroom staff not knowing to keep the jury in the jury room until such time as they got a call that they could be released. Even that is hindsight.
MS. ATHANAS: I apologize. Like I said, I understood that once she left the courthouse, and Sandra said, we can't - Ms. Tucker, of course, she said, we don't, you know, these people have warrants, we have to, we have to have them arrested, but we won't do it in the courthouse, we couldn't do it in the courthouse. But I will get her outside the courthouse.
THE COURT: Was this like on the courthouse steps?
MR. THREATT: Less than ten feet from entrance to the building. I saw that. I went downstairs and she was standing in handcuffs within arm's reach of the door. And there were two, both of the officers who testified on the case and Agent Tucker.
MS. ATHANAS: Obviously, I had no idea that it was going to go down that way. I had no input. They did not obviously ask me how they were suppose to arrest someone. We didn't discuss it. I just assume that Sandra knew better than to do that, quite frankly, because we have had this whole conversation. I mean, she has been present - she is an experienced police officer. She knows that you can't talk to jurors, she sat there and listened to the Court's instructions and knows that we don't interact with jurors period, first of all. Second of all, that she would be arrested in a place where she could have been seen, given the timing of when it occurred, is shocking to me.

(Cr. Doc. 66 at 3:4-5:24).

         After individually questioning the jurors about what they had seen of the incident and their perceptions of it, the court granted ...


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