The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Garrett E. Brown, Jr.
This matter comes before the Court upon the petition forrelief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by Petitioner Jacob S. Adams, Jr. (hereinafter "Petitioner"). (Doc. No. 12). Respondent the United States of America (hereinafter the "Government") has answered Petitioner's petition, and argues that it should be denied. (Doc. No. 14). The Court has considered the parties' submissions without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. Having done so, Petitioner's petition will be denied for the reasons that follow.
On November 27, 2002, Petitioner was convicted of three counts of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113, and three counts of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Government's Answer ¶ 4, hereafter "Answer"). The robberies occurred in 1995 and 1996. (Petitioner's Amended Petition P. 1, hereafter "Amend. Pet."). On April 7, 2003, the Court sentenced Petitioner to 610 months incarceration. (Answer ¶ 3). On April 24, 2003, Petitioner filed Notice of Appeal and on July 10, 2006, the Third Circuit affirmed his conviction but remanded the case to this Court for re-sentencing in light of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). (Amend. Pet. P. 2). On June 29, the Court re-sentenced Adams to 610 months. (Answer ¶ 3). Petitioner again appealed his sentence, which the Third Circuit affirmed on September 8, 2008. (Answer ¶ 9). On December 4, 2009, Petitioner filed his initial petition pursuant to § 2255. (Amend. Pet. P. 2). Subsequently, Petitioner retained counsel and filed an amended § 2255 petition on September 3, 2010. (Docket #12). The Government replied with its Answer on December 6, 2010, to which Petitioner responded on December 21, 2010. (Docket #14 and #15).
In his present petition, Petitioner requests that this Court vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to § 2255 because he contends: (1) that the Court's admission of DNA evidence at trial constituted a violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to the Confrontation Clause; and (2) that his defense counsel provided him ineffective assistance. (Amend. Pet. P. 5-20). The Government has moved to dismiss Petitioner's petition on the grounds that Petitioner has failed to satisfy the burden of proof required to support both claims and obtain relief pursuant to § 2255. (Answer ¶ 35). Specifically, the Government asserts that Petitioner's first claim is substantively without merit because Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the recent Supreme Court decision upon which Petitioner primarily relies, does not apply retroactively. Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009). In the alternative, the Government argues that the admission of DNA evidence at trial in this case complied with Melendez-Diaz. Finally, the Government argues that Petitioner's second claim fails because Petitioner does not establish that counsel was ineffective under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).
Having reviewed the parties' various submissions, the Court agrees with the Government and will deny Petitioner's petition for the following reasons.
A. Standard of Review For 28 U.S.C. § 2255
28 U.S.C. § 2255 permits a court to vacate, correct or set aside a sentence that was "imposed in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States, or that the Court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to a collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Generally, "claims not raised on direct appeal may not be raised on collateral review unless the petitioner shows cause and prejudice." Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003). However, the Court of Appeals has expressed a strong preference that an ineffective assistance of counsel claim be brought before the district court in the first instance in a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See DeRewal, 10 F.3d at 103 (citing United States v. Rieger, 942 F.2d 230, 235 (3d Cir. 1991)). Since it is appropriate to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under § 2255, rather than on direct appeal, "the failure to raise such a claim on direct appeal should not be treated as a procedural fault." Id. This Court must accept the truth of the petitioner's factual allegations unless they are clearly frivolous based on the existing record. Government of the Virgin Islands v. Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989).
1. Petitioner's Confrontation Clause Argument
As noted, Petitioner seeks relief pursuant to § 2255 under two separate theories. First, Petitioner argues that his Sixth Amendment rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated at trial when the Court admitted the results of certain DNA tests via expert testimony, absent testimony by the lab technician who prepared the DNA samples. (Amend. Pet. P. 5) Petitioner claims that Melendez-Diaz v. Massachussets, 557 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009), the Supreme Court's recent decision that addresses testimonial statements under the Confrontation Clause, is ...