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Woodward v. Daniels

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

November 30, 2017

ELLO M. WOODWARD, Petitioner,
CHARLES A. DANIEL, Warden, Respondent.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Petitioner Ello Woodward was convicted by a jury in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida of various drug offenses. His conviction was affirmed on appeal and his motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was denied. He now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 arguing that, in this course of his trial and appeal, his rights were violated in a number of ways.[1] The United States argues that Woodward's petition must be dismissed pursuant to the “gatekeeping” provision of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(a) and that Woodward has failed to demonstrate that his is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background [2]

         Woodward's claims for relief under § 2241 are based largely on the events that occurred during a hearing near the start of trial. He contends that his defense counsel, the prosecutor, and the judge who presided over his trial all conspired to violate his rights.

         A. Woodward's Trial and Appeal

         At the pre-trial hearing, Woodward complained that his appointed counsel refused to file motion that Woodward wrote challenging, among other things, the validity of affidavits prepared by Tampa Police Department officers in connection with his arrest. Crim. Dkt. 115; 197, p. 2-3, 5. As to one of the affidavits, he alleged that it was unsigned and fraudulent. Woodward believed that the challenges raised in the motion warranted the suppression of evidence and dismissal of the charges against him (the “motion” or “Motion to Suppress or in the Alternative Motion to Dismiss”). Dkt. 1-14, p. 8. With Woodward in the courtroom, the judge conducted a sidebar conference with appointed counsel and the prosecutor to determine whether Woodward and his counsel had irreconcilable differences. Appointed counsel advised the judge that he did not believe there were irreconcilable differences, that he had discussed the motion with Woodward, and they disagreed as to the merit of the arguments raised in the motion. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 48.

         Following this conference, appointed counsel stated his position as to why he believed that the arguments made in the motion were factually and legally insufficient, and why he could not, in good faith, bring the arguments before the court. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 50-55. Woodward took the opportunity to advise the court of why he believed the arguments in the motion were meritorious. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 59-63.

         A second sidebar was held and appointed counsel was given the opportunity to withdraw or proceed to trial with the motions sealed and made part of the record for purposes of an appeal, but not ruled upon by the court. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 63-66. Appointed counsel decided to continue to represent Woodward. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 65.

         When Woodward learned that this motion would not be ruled upon, and that he would be allowed to raise the allegations in his motion only in the context of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on appeal or in a § 2255 motion, he waived his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and stated he wanted to represent himself pro se. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 67-72. Appointed counsel then took the position of standby counsel. Crim. Dkt. 197, p. 72.

         During trial, Woodward cross-examined a detective with the Tampa Police Department regarding his perceived inconsistencies between the affidavits. The detective explained why some copies had no signature and the line inconsistencies. Crim. Dkt. 200, p. 164, 166, 245-48, 256-60; 202, p. 111-14. The trial court ordered certified copies be obtained; nevertheless, Woodward persisted with his objection. Crim. Dkt. 200, p. 230-34, 242-45, 258. Thereafter, the trial court denied Woodward's Motion to Suppress and in the Alternative a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment based on the alleged inconsistencies in the affidavits. Crim. Dkt. 134, p. 3-4; 200, p. 7, 20-21, 26-28; 202, p. 19, 28-30. Specifically, the trial court found that “if there was any error related to the affidavits, that error merely provides the basis for impeachment of government witnesses” and that “any discrepancies arise from the fact that the original affidavits were filed in state court, with case numbers added, and copies were scanned into the Tampa Police Department file without marking or numbering.” Crim. Dkt. 134, p. 3-4.

         The jury convicted Woodward and he was sentenced to an aggregated sentence of 156 months' imprisonment. Crim. Dkt. 166. With new counsel, Woodward appealed his conviction arguing only that the waiver of his right to counsel was not made knowingly and voluntarily, and that substitute counsel should have been appointed. United States v. Woodward, 419 Fed. App'x. 969, 970 (11th Cir. 2011). The Eleventh Circuit rejected Woodward's arguments and affirmed his conviction. Id. at 971.

         B. Woodward's § 2255 Motion

         In February 2012, Woodward filed a motion to vacate his conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his motion, Woodward claimed, among other things, that the trial court erred by denying his Motion to Suppress or in the Alternative his Motion to Dismiss, particularly as it relates to the law enforcement affidavits supporting his arrest, and that appellate counsel was ineffective for not raising this claim on appeal. Civ. Dkt. 1.

         The district judge, the same judge who presided over Woodward's trial, denied the post-conviction motion. The district judge recognized that Woodward had raised the arguments in the trial court and lost; and found that Woodward's challenge to the affidavits had no merit and that Woodward “had a full and fair opportunity to cast doubt on the affidavit by cross-examining the witness.” For these reasons, the court found that Woodward could show no prejudice. Civ. Dkt. 30. To the extent Woodward “attempt[ed] to insinuate that if counsel had filed his motions, Woodward would not have been forced to represent himself in order to obtain a ruling on his motions, ” the district court found Woodward's characterization of his decision to proceed pro se to be without merit. Id. The district court concluded that the record showed, and ...

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