Thursday, February 08, 2007

No Resentencing Hearing Needed After 2255 Proceeding

US v. Hadden: Hadden was originally convicted by a jury of drug charges and a 18 USC 924(c) charge for using a firearm in relation to those drug offenses. He was sentenced to 228 months in prison - 168 months on the drug counts plus 60 months on the 924(c). Hadden's convictions and sentence were upheld on direct appeal. Hadden then filed a 28 USC 2255 motion in which he alleged, among other things, ineffective assistance of counsel in relation to the 924(c) charge. The district court accepted that argument and vacated the 924(c) conviction. The district court then entered an "amended judgment order" in the criminal case imposing a sentence of 168 months. That order was entered without any resentencing hearing.

Hadden appealed, arguing that the district court erred by not having a hearing prior to imposing the new sentence and that the sentence violated Booker (Hadden's trial, appeal, and 2255 proceedings were ongoing during the Blakely/Hammoud/Booker proceedings). The Fourth Circuit rejected those arguments and affirmed Hadden's sentence.

Before reaching the merits, the court analyzed whether it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal, which turned on whether Hadden's appeal was part of the 2255 proceeding or the underlying criminal case. If the former, the court lacked jurisdiction because neither it nor the district court issued a Certificate of Appealability. If the latter, the court had jurisdiction to review the new sentence as a direct appeal of a newly entered final order. After reviewing precedent and parsing the language of 2255, the court concluded that in this case the sentence that was being appealed was part of the underlying criminal case and it therefore had jurisdiction.

On the merits, however, the court ruled against Hadden. First, it concluded that the district court's imposition of a 168-month sentence was not really a resentencing, but rather a "correction" of sentence under 2255 because it removed the 924(c) sentence and left the rest intact. While the district court could have held a resentencing hearing, nothing in the statute or case law required it to do so. Second, the court rejected Hadden's Booker arguments, holding that there was no Booker statutory error and refusing to take notice of the Booker Sixth Amendment plain error that occurred.

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