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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 31, 2013




Troy Martin ("Martin"), known to his subordinates within the Mafia Insane Vice Lords street gang as "King Troy, " was convicted by a jury of a massive drug distribution conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison. Martin now seeks post-judgment relief from his conviction and sentence. His original post-conviction petition [1] argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that (1) his lawyer failed to discover and argue that the government committed "fraud" in connection with Title III evidence; (2) his lawyer failed to request a "multiple conspiracies" instruction; (3) his lawyer failed to conduct an adequate investigation, interview witnesses, or present a defense; (4) his lawyer failed to give him appropriate advice concerning the government's "30-year plea offer"; and (5) his lawyer discouraged him from testifying and advised the court that he chose not to take the stand. In a more recent motion [16], Martin seeks to add a claim that his sentence violated the Supreme Court's holding in Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). For the reasons explained here, none of Martin's arguments support the grant of post-conviction relief.


The court begins with Martin's argument based upon Alleyne, as that one may be disposed of readily. The government argues that any sentencing challenge based upon Alleyne is untimely, as it is unrelated to the claims he raised in his initial, timely petition, and was asserted for the first time well after the one-year statutory time limit. The government notes, further, that the sentencing concern addressed in Alleyne is not applicable in this case, where the jury itself made findings that supported a sentence up to life in prison. In any event, any argument based upon Alleyne is not available retroactively on post-conviction review. See Simpson v. United States, 721 F.3d 875, 876-77 (7th Cir. 2013). Martin's claim based upon Alleyne is dismissed.

All of Martin's remaining claims allege ineffective assistance of trial counsel. To establish such a claim, Martin must show that his attorney's performance "fell below objective standards for reasonably effective representation, " and that his defense was prejudiced as a result. Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 879 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984)). As explained briefly below, Martin's claims fail on one or both of those two prongs.

I. Title III Evidence

The court turns, first, to Martin's claim that trial counsel neglected to challenge the Title III evidence. That claim is flatly inconsistent with the record. To the contrary, at every turn, counsel aggressively challenged the government's failure to seal Title III recordings. That challenge was the subject of substantial pre-trial briefing and argument [626, 749, 882, 946, 971, 1051, 1111] and was the centerpiece of Martin's appeal. Defense counsel prevailed, in that the Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand for further findings on the matter of the failure to seal, generating another round of briefing and further written ruling from this court [2359, 2364, 2371, 2374]. This court, and the Court of Appeals, ultimately concluded that the Title III evidence was properly admitted; but any suggestion that counsel neglected this issue cannot be taken seriously.

II. Instructions

Martin complains that counsel failed to ask for a "multiple conspiracies" instruction, but the instructions the court did give made clear that the government had charged a single overall conspiracy and that "[p]roof of separate or independent conspiracies [was] not sufficient" to sustain the government's burden of proof on that charge. (Trial Tr. vol. 19, at 3428:13-17.) And the court explained, with respect to co-defendant Eddie Bell ("Bell"), that evidence that Bell was a member of "some conspiracy" but not the one charged, was insufficient. ( Id. at 3429:11-15.) Martin has not explained how the evidence supported a "multiple conspiracies" instruction in his own case, nor how the absence of such an instruction prejudiced him. The instructions were accurate statements of the law and were based on the evidence. Martin's attorney was not ineffective for failing to request additional language.

III. Failure to Investigate

Martin's third ineffective assistance argument asserts that his attorney failed to investigate adequately or prepare a defense. Martin's original petition made no mention of any facts his lawyer could have uncovered and did not identify any witnesses who could have offered exculpatory information. That failure defeats the "ineffective assistance for failure to investigate" argument, as such an argument requires the petitioner to identify "sufficiently precise information, that is, a comprehensive showing as to what the investigation would have produced.'" Richardson v. United States, 379 F.3d 485, 488 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Hardamon v. United States, 319 F.3d 943, 951 (7th Cir. 2003)).

In his reply memorandum, Martin suggests his lawyer could have called "other members of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords who could have testified that Mr. Martin actually forbids members of the Mafia Insanes to traffic in narcotics." (Pet'r's Rep. [15] at 8.) Again, Martin has not identified any persons who could have offered such testimony, nor has he explained why his lawyer could not have elicited such testimony (if it were true) from the cooperating witnesses who testified for the government. In any event, as the government observes, "[t]he notion that Martin had forbidden narcotics trafficking by Mafia Insanes would have been laughable in the face of the evidence otherwise." (Resp't's Resp. [19] at 3.) Martin was the central figure in what the Court of Appeals referred to as a "sprawling narcotics-distribution network on the west side of Chicago, that has been in existence since 1998." United States v. Martin, 618 F.3d 705, 709 (7th Cir. 2010). Martin was the self-proclaimed "King" of the street gang at the heart of this operation. In this context it is not surprising that he has not identified exculpatory evidence that his attorney neglected. The defense that counsel did present-that Martin was a gang leader, but not the leader of a narcotics conspiracy-was not persuasive to the jury, but it represented a reasonable strategic approach. In evaluating a claim of ineffective assistance, the court defers to "any strategic decision the lawyer made that falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, ' even if that strategy was ultimately unsuccessful." Shaw v. Wilson, 721 F.3d 908, 914 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). Nothing about counsel's performance reflected inadequate preparation or a lack of attention to available arguments.

IV. Right to Testify

Nor is the court moved by Martin's contention that his attorney acted improperly by discouraging him from testifying. Martin asserts that his attorney told him the prosecutor would "tear [him] up" if he were to take the stand. Assuming that counsel did warn that, were he to take the stand, Martin would be subject to a bruising cross-examination, such a warning was likely accurate. See Taylor v. United States, 287 F.3d 658, 662 (7th Cir. 2002) (discussing the risks of testifying, including impeachment with prior ...

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