United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
January 29, 2004.
SHAREE S. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Petitioner Sharee S. Williams petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is before this court. For the following
reasons, this court denies the petition in its entirety.
On November 13, 1998, following a jury trial, petitioner was convicted
of conspiracy to distribute a Schedule II narcotic, in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I) and possession with intent to distribute and
distributing a Schedule II narcotic, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)
(Count III), She was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon
(Count V), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On March 18, 1999, this
court sentenced Williams to 97 months' imprisonment, pursuant to
21 U.S.C. § 841(b) and the applicable sections of the United States
On August 15, 2000, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the convictions on
Counts I and III and reversed and remanded for a new trial on Count V.
United Suites v. Walls, et al., 225 F.3d 858 (7th Cir. 2000). Williams
did not file a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme
On remand, the parties agreed that reversal of the conviction on. and
dismissal of Count V
would not affect the sentence. Accordingly, on November 1, 2000, an
amended judgment was entered imposing a 97-month sentence (and deleting
reference to the conviction on Count V). The judgment was docketed and
made final on November 6, 2000, and petitioner filed no appeal from that
On October 9, 2001, petitioner timely filed a Section 2255 motion to
vacate her sentence.
II. Habeas Corpus Standard
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, federal prisoners can challenge the imposition
or length of their detention if their conviction or sentence has been
founded on an error 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. 1992)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). If the court concludes that
any such errors infected the judgment or sentence, it "shall vacate and
set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him
or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate."
28 U.S.C. § 2255.
A. Petitioner Asserts Three Grounds for Relief.*fn1
In support of her request for release from imprisonment, Williams
asserts three arguments all of which are premised upon the decision of
the United States Supreme Court in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466,
120 S.Ct. 2348 (2000). Petitioner claims that Apprendi established drug
type and quantity as "material elements" of drug-related offenses under
21 U.S.C. § 841 (a). On that basis, she contends that; (1) the indictment
was faulty by virtue of its failure to specify
the type and quantity of the drug at issue; and (2) the trial court erred
by failing to instruct the jury to make findings on those "elements"
under a reasonable doubt standard (and, instead, making those findings
itself under a preponderance standard).
In her petition, Williams also obtusely suggests that Apprendi altered
the Seventh Circuit's formulation of drug-related offenses to require a
jury finding of actual knowledge on the part of defendants concerning the
types of drugs involved therein. Based upon that suggestion, as well as
her generic contention that drug-related offenses require a showing of
"specific intent," she asserts that: (3) the court erred by instructing
the jury that it did "not matter whether the defendant knew that, the
substance was cocaine."
B. Grounds I III Fail Because of Apprendi's Irrelevance to
The Seventh Circuit's construction of Apprendi is clear (and, in some
respects, more narrow than that rendered by other federal courts of
appeals). "All Apprendi holds is that most circumstances increasing a
statutory maximum sentence must be treated as elements of the offense
and if the defendant has demanded a jury trial, this means that they must
be established beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury's satisfaction."
Talbott v. Indiana, 226 F.3d 866
, 869 (7th Cir. 2000), What this means in
the context of drug-related offenses is that "a post-Apprendi indictment
should specify, and the trier of fact must be instructed to determine,
not only the elements of the offense, which appear in § 841(a), but also
the events listed in § 841(b) on which the prosecutor relies to establish
the maximum sentence." United Slates v. Bjorkman, 270 F.3d 482
, 491 (7th
Critically, Apprendi's "holding is inapplicable, in situations in which
the sentence established is not `more severe than the statutory maximum
for the offense imposed by the jury's verdict.'" United States v.
Iluerta, 239 F.3d 865, 876 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Apprendi, 120 S.Ct.
at 2361 n.13) (emphasis added), See also United States v. Williams,
238 P.3d 871, 877 (7th Cir. 2001); United Stales v. Brough, 243 F.3d 1078,
1079-80 (7th Cir. 2001). Indeed, Apprendi is "irrelevant" where `a drug
dealer is sentenced to less than 20 years' imprisonment the limit under
21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) for even small-scale dealing in Schedule I and
II controlled substances." Talbott 226 F.3d at 869 (emphasis added). See
also United Stales v. Robinson, 250 F.3d 527, 529 (7th Cir. 2001) ("when
a defendant's sentence does not exceed 20 years imprisonment the
maximum under § 841(b) for possessing/distributing the smallest amount of
cocaine Apprendi is irrelevant") (citations omitted); United States v.
Nance, 236 F.3d 820, 826 (7th Cir. 2000) ("the Apprendi rule applies only
to drug quantities that, permit a sentence in excess of the default
statutory maximum of twenty years").
Contrary to petitioner's argument, the indictment specified that
Williams was charged with possession with intent to distribute a
substance containing cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance (Count
III), and a related conspiracy (Count I), and the jury was instructed
that, to find Williams guilty, it must conclude beyond a reasonable doubt
that cocaine was involved.*fn3 In tact, the parties stipulated at trial
to the amount and type of controlled substance involved: 3, 971 grams of
80% pure cocaine. The jury found Williams guilty on Counts I and Ill The
maximum sentence for an offense involving any detectible amount of
cocaine (or other Schedule II controlled substance) is 20 years. See
21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C). Because petitioner received a sentence below
the default statutory maximum, Apprendi is irrelevant to her case and
wholly unavailing as a means of attacking her sentence and securing her
release. See, e.g., Huerta, 239 F.3d at 876; Robinson, 250 F.3d at 529;
Williams, 238 F.3d at 876-77; Talbott, 226 F.3d at 869. Given that all
three of petitioner's purported grounds for relief are dependent upon the
applicability of Apprendi, they cannot even get off the ground and must be
For the foregoing reasons, Williams' petition for a writ of habeas
corpus is denied.