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Michael Matthews v. United States of America

June 14, 2012

MICHAEL MATTHEWS, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from orders of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, David N. Hurd, Judge, denying motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate petitioner's conviction or correct his sentence of life imprisonment under the three-strikes provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kearse, Circuit Judge:

10-0611-pr

Matthews v. USA

(Argued: January 25, 2012

Before: KEARSE, CABRANES, and STRAUB, Circuit Judges.

Vacated in part, and remanded.

2 Petitioner Michael Matthews, who received a sentence of life imprisonment as a career 3 offender pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c) following his conviction in 2007 of federal bank robbery 4 and conspiracy offenses, appeals (1) from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern 5 District of New York, David N. Hurd, Judge, denying his motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate 6 his conviction or correct his sentence on the principal grounds that he was denied effective assistance 7 of trial counsel and appellate counsel, and (2) from the denial of his motion for reconsideration. 8 Matthews contends that the district court erred in denying his § 2255 motion without conducting a 9 hearing and without giving a meaningful explanation for its decision. For the reasons that follow, we 10 conclude that the matter must be remanded to the district court for further proceedings on at least one 11 of Matthews's claims and for specification by the district court of the issue or issues as to which it 12 granted Matthews, without explanation, a certificate of appealability (or "COA") to seek review of 13 its denial of his § 2255 motion.

14 I. BACKGROUND

15 Matthews has a history of convictions for robbery and burglary offenses dating back 16 at least to 1971, when he was convicted of first-degree robbery in violation of N.Y. Penal Law 17 § 160.15 and two counts of second-degree burglary in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 140.25, resulting 18 in a state-court youthful offender adjudication. His § 2255 motion focuses principally on his most 19 recent convictions and their relationship to his past troubles with the law.

1 A. Matthews's Most Recent Convictions

2 In 2006, in a superseding federal indictment, Matthews was charged with one count 3 of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), and one count of conspiracy to commit bank 4 robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 ("the 2006 charges"). The government filed an "Enhanced 5 Penalty Information" alleging that Matthews had previously been convicted of several serious violent 6 felonies; that his record included convictions in 1983 on two counts of first-degree robbery in 7 violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 160.15, and convictions in 1996 of bank robbery in violation of 18 8 U.S.C. §§ 2113(a) and (b), and conspiracy to commit bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; 9 and that, on the 2006 charges, the government would therefore seek enhanced punishment for 10 Matthews under the three-strikes provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c).

11 Section 3559(c) provides, in pertinent part, that if a person "convicted in a court of the 12 United States of a serious violent felony" has previously "been convicted (and those convictions have 13 become final) on separate prior occasions in a court of the United States or of a State of . . . 2 or more 14 serious violent felonies," that person, "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, . . . shall be 15 sentenced to life imprisonment." 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(1)(A)(i). For purposes of this section, "'serious 16 violent felony'" is defined to include "robbery (as described in section 2111, 2113, or 2118)" and 17 "conspiracy . . . to commit any of the above offenses." Id. § 3559(c)(2)(F)(i). See also United States 18 v. Snype, 441 F.3d 119, 144 (2d Cir. 2006) ("Snype") (because the New York Penal Law "statutory 19 elements" of robbery, including "§ 160.15," "parallel those required to establish robbery under 18 20 U.S.C. §§ 2111, 2113(a), and 2118(a), . . . New York State convictions for first and second degree 21 robbery by definition qualify as serious violent felonies under § 3559(c)(2)(F)(i)").

1 At a jury trial in September 2006, at which Matthews was represented by James F. 2 Greenwald of the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Matthews was found guilty of the 2006 3 charges. In 2007, the district court found, over defense objections, that Matthews had previously been 4 convicted of at least two serious violent felony offenses, and it sentenced him to, inter alia, concurrent 5 terms of life imprisonment. On direct appeal, for which Matthews was represented by new counsel, 6 his conviction and sentence were affirmed. See United States v. Matthews, 545 F.3d 223, 225 (2d Cir. 7 2008) (noting People v. Matthews, 68 N.Y.2d 118, 123, 506 N.Y.S.2d 149 (1986) (which had 8 affirmed Matthews's first set of adult convictions), and United States v. Matthews, 20 F.3d 538, 9 553-55 (2d Cir. 1994) (which had affirmed his second set of adult convictions)).

10 B. Matthews's § 2255 Motion

11 In March 2009, Matthews, proceeding pro se, filed the § 2255 motion that is the 12 subject of the present appeal, asserting four claims. He alleged principally that he was denied 13 effective assistance of counsel ("IAC") at trial because Greenwald had hired, as an investigator to 14 assist in Matthews's defense, a former police officer with whom Greenwald knew Matthews "had a 15 prior negative relationship" (Matthews § 2255 Motion at 5). The motion alleged that the investigator, 16 Richard Haumann, had been a deputy police chief in Syracuse, New York, and that he had "arrested 17 [and] viciously assaulted" Matthews and addressed Matthews "with racial disdain and 18 insensitivity" at a time when Matthews was accused of the attempted murder of a police officer. (Id.) 19 The motion ...


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