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U.S. v. JOHNSON

March 11, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE-RESPONDENT,
v.
DARRYL JOHNSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT-PETITIONER.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne B. Conlon, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Darryl Johnson ("Johnson") was convicted of ordering the murder of a person assisting in federal criminal investigation and ordering the murder of that person and another in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise. Johnson was sentenced to death. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Johnson's conviction and sentence. United States v. Johnson, 223 F.3d 665 (7th Cir. 2000). The Supreme Court denied Johnson's petition for writ of certiorari. Johnson v. United States, 122 S.Ct. 71 (2001). Johnson filed a timely petition to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("§ 2255") and Fed.R.Crim.P. 33.

In his petition, Johnson claims he was denied effective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment (Ground I); the government railed to disclose evidence that impeaches a government witness, in violation of the Fifth Amendment (Ground II); the jury relied on incomplete and potentially misleading testimony in sentencing him to death, in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Ground III); the relaxed evidentiary standards allowed by Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 ("FDPA") during the penalty phase of a capital trial violates the Sixth Amendment (Ground IV); the indictment does not contain all statutory aggravators, in violation of the Filth Amendment (Ground V); his execution will violate his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eight Amendment because he may be mentally retarded (Ground VI); his selection for capital prosecution violates his due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment because federal capital cases are brought disproportionately against minorities (Ground VII); and the jurors may have considered information outside the record in sentencing him to death (Ground VIII). Johnson moves for leave to conduct discovery in connection with his § 2255 petition pursuant to Habeas Rule 6(a).

BACKGROUND

Johnson was charged in a to fifty-one count indictment alleging that he conspired to sell drugs through the Gangster Discip1es street gang and ordered the murders of two fellow gang members. Charles Banks and Darryl "Blunt" Johnson. The government sought the death penalty for the two murders by tiling a post-indictment Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty under the FDPA. The government dismissed eight counts prior to trial. On November 4, 1997, a jury convicted Johnson on the 43 remaining counts, including the two murder charges.

At Johnson's sentencing hearing, the parties presentcd evidence on the non-statutory aggravating factor of future dangerousness. The government presented evidence that Johnson was involved in numerous violent crimes, including the discipline of fellow gang members. In addition to the murders of "Blunt" Johnson and Banks, the jury heard testimony about the murder of another fellow gang member, Gregory "G" Sharpe (Tr. 1944-56), a shooting in a McDonald's parking lot that left two people dead (Tr. 1880-87), the shooting or a truck driver who interrupted Johnson's security convey at an intersection (Tr. 1891-95). the murder of a rival gang member (Tr. 1888-90) and several severe beatings Johnson ordered. (Tr. 1800-1805, 1896-1916). The government offered evidence that Johnson was convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Jesse Simpson in 1983. Tr. 1847-53, 1975. A Metropolitan Correctional Center officer testified that Johnson threatened to "get" fellow gang member and co-defendant Quan Ray while they were in custody awaiting trial. Tr. 1863-72.

In response, Johnson called Dr, Mark Cunningham to testify about the custodial options available to the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), including the control unit in the federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado ("ADX Florence"). Tr. 2282-87. Cunningham testified that Johnson could be permanently sentenced to the control unit in ADX Florence, where inmates are confined one to a cell for 23 hours per day without any contact with other inmates. "Tr. 2284-95. According to Cunningham, monitoring by the BOP ensures that gang members like Johnson would "simply have no opportunity to carry out gang-related activities." Tr. 2289. Cunningham opined that there was an "extraordinarily low" likelihood that Johnson would be a danger to others if he were confined to the control unit in ADX Florence. Tr. 2306-07.

In rebuttal, the government presented the testimony of John Vanyur, a former assistant warden at ADX Florence. Vanyur testified that ADX Florence, with a capacity or only 484 inmates, has a well — defined "mission" as a place to house inmates who cannot function in an open prison environment. Tr. 2464. Approximately 90% of the inmates at ADX Florence were transferred from other BOP facilities because of serious misconduct during their incarceration, while 9% are assigned to ADX Florence from the sentencing court. Tr 2466-67, 2499. Inmates directly assigned to ADX Florence are typically high-ranking organized crime figures, international and domestic terrorists, and high-ranking drug cartel members. Tr. 2468. The authority to place an inmate in a specific institution rests solely with the BOP. Id. Vanyur testified that the BOP regulatory scheme prohibits assignment and indefinite confinement in a control unit based on offenses committed in the community. Tr. 2483-85.

During his testimony, Vanyur provided examples of how ADX Florence inmates communicate with each other and the outside world. Tr. 2478-79. For example, inmates send notes through the plumbing system, yell through the vents, learn sign language, use encryption systems, such as an ancient alphabet in inmate correspondence, use codewords to communicate messages outside the facility, and use "drop-calling." Id. To illustrate drop-calling, Vanyur recounted an incident where intelligence had shown that the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood, who was incarcerated at ADX Florence, successfully ordered the murders of two African-American inmates in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Id. at 2479-80. The Aryan Brotherhood leader made a "drop" communication ordering the murders to an individual in California by speaking in code. Id.

Inmates in the control unit are allowed one 15 minute telephone call, up to five non-contact visits per month, and virtually unlimited correspondence with the outside world. Tr. 2485. According to Vanyur, Johnson would likely be placed in the open population at a high security penitentiary, rather than ADX Florence, Tr. 2474-75, 2496-97. In an open population setting, an inmate "would have as many phone calls as he could pay for or get someone to accept them as collect charges, so he would have virtually unlimited phone access if he has the time to make the phone calls. And he would have unlimited correspondence privileges." Tr. 2477. After more than 13 hours of deliberation, the jury returned two death sentences against Johnson.

DISCUSSION

I. Discovery Motion

Johnson filed his motion for leave to conduct discovery on February 3, 2003, over four months after he filed his § 2255 petition. Indeed, Johnson did not file his discovery motion until after the government filed its response to his § 2255 petition. Johnson does not provide any explanation for the delay. Nor does the government object. Therefore, the court will consider Johnson's tardy discovery motion under Habeas Rule 6(a).

Rule 6(a) provides in relevant part:

A party shall be entitled to invoke the processes of discovery available under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or elsewhere in the usages and principles of law if, and to the extent that, the judge in the exercise of his discretion and for good cause shown grants leave to do so, but not otherwise.
28 U.S.C.A. § 2255 Rule 6(a). In order to meet this standard, Johnson must: (1) make a colorable claim showing that the underlying facts. if proven, constitute a constitutional violation; and (2) show good cause for the discovery. Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 298-300 (1969). Good cause exists "where specific allegations before the court show reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is . . . entitled to relief" Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 908-9 (1997). In order to determine whether Johnson has shown good cause for the requested discovery, the court must first evaluate the merits of his underlying claims.

II. Habeas Petition

Collateral relief under § 2255 is available to a petitioner who shows "an error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or is a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Oliver v. United States, 961 F.2d 1339, 1341 (7th Cir. 1995). Section 2255 relief is neither a recapitulation of, nor a substitute for, direct appeal. Belford v. United States, 975 F.2d 310, 313 (71h Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, Castellanos v. United States, 26 F.3d 717, 719, 20 (7th Cir. 1994).

A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (Ground I)

Johnson claims the lawyers who represented him before this court were ineffective during the guilt and penalty phases of his trial. Johnson did not raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct appeal. Ineffective assistance of counsel may be raised for the first time in a § 2255 motion only if: (1) trial and appellate counsel were the same; or (2) the defendant needed time to develop additional extrinsic evidence to support his ineffective assistance claim. Guinan v. United States, 6 F.3d 468, 471.72 (7th Cir. 1993). Different counsel represented Johnson at trial and on direct appeal. Therefore, Johnson must establish that ...


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