United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
reasons discussed in this Entry, the motion of Lenard Dixon
for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be
denied and the action dismissed with
prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a
certificate of appealability should not issue.
2255 Motion Standards
motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the presumptive
means by which a federal prisoner can challenge his
conviction or sentence. See Davis v. United States,
417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A court may grant relief from a
federal conviction or sentence pursuant to § 2255
“upon the ground that the sentence 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 collateral
attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The scope of relief
available under § 2255 is narrow, limited to “an
error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or
constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in
a complete miscarriage of justice.” Borre v. United
States, 940 F.2d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1991) (internal
2013, while Mr. Dixon was incarcerated at the United States
Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, a grand jury charged
Mr. Dixon with being an accessory after the fact to murder,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3. Another inmate,
co-defendant William Bell, was charged with committing
premeditated murder of another inmate, Brian Pendelton, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. Mr. Dixon and Bell were
tried jointly before a jury the following year.
voir dire, the Court advised the jury that
“[i]f at any time you realize you know something about
the case, you know a witness or you know the Defendant,
… you must inform the courtroom deputy at your
earliest opportunity.” USA v. Bell, et al.,
No. 2:13-cr-00021-JMS-CMM-2 (S.D. Ind.) (hereinafter,
“Crim. Dkt.”), Crim. Dkt. 136 at 7 [sealed]. The
Court emphasized the need to provide the defendant a fair
trial and to ensure that the “people who are selected
as jurors can keep an open mind throughout trial” and
decide the case “based solely on the evidence that is
presented” in the courtroom. Crim. Dkt. 136 at 8, 15
[sealed]. The Court read the names of potential witnesses in
the case, including the name “Nurse T. Bixler, who
works at the Bureau of Prisons.” Crim. Dkt. 136 at 16
[sealed]. When the Court asked the prospective jurors if they
knew any of the named witnesses, only Prospective Juror #21,
who ultimately was not selected as a juror, stated he knew a
witness. Crim. Dkt. 136 at 16 [sealed].
Bixler testified the morning of the second day of the three
day trial. Crim. Dkt. 139 at 143. She testified that she
performed an injury assessment of Mr. Bell three days after
the murder and observed a one centimeter abrasion on the
inside of Mr. Bell's lower lip. Crim. Dkt. #139 at
145-46. Nurse Bixler further testified that when asked how he
got the abrasion, she believed Mr. Bell refused to answer.
Crim. Dkt. 139 at148.
the lunch break, the Court was advised that Juror #1 was
acquainted with Nurse Bixler. Crim. Dkt. 139 at 165. In the
presence of the parties and outside the presence of the other
jurors, the Court questioned Juror #1 as to the nature of her
relationship with Nurse Bixler. Crim. Dkt. 139 at 165-66.
Juror #1 stated that she knew Nurse Bixler only because her
husband has repaired Nurse Bixler's vehicles. She stated
that she had called Nurse Bixler to advise her when the
repairs were completed and the cost of the repairs. Crim.
Dkt. 139 at 166. Juror #1 confirmed that her relationship
with Nurse Bixler did not affect her ability to be fair and
impartial. Id. No. party expressed concern or
objected to continuing the trial with Juror #1 serving as a
three-day jury trial, Mr. Bell and Mr. Dixon were both
convicted. Mr. Dixon was sentenced to a 156-month term of
imprisonment, to be served consecutively to the federal
sentence he was serving at the time of Pendelton's
murder. Crim. Dkt. 114. The Court entered judgment on October
31, 2014. Crim. Dkt. 114.
November 6, 2014, Mr. Dixon filed a notice of appeal. Crim.
Dkt. 124. In his appeal, Mr. Dixon challenged the sufficiency
of evidence and argued that the district court erred by
allowing his legs to be shackled during the trial. See
United States v. Bell, 819 F.3d 310 (7th Cir. 2016). On
February 17, 2016, the Seventh Circuit affirmed Mr.
Dixon's conviction and sentence in all respects.
Id. The Seventh Circuit held that (1) the
“district judge applied the correct legal standard and
identified the facts that, in her considered judgment,
presented a special need for restraints” and that
“appropriate precautions [were taken] to minimize risk
that the jury could infer that Dixon was shackled”; and
(2) “[t]he evidence was more than sufficient to support
Dixon's conviction as an accessory after the fact.
Id. at 320-23.
February 14, 2017, Mr. Dixon filed a motion for
post-conviction relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The
United States responded and Mr. Dixon has replied. The action
is ripe for resolution.
Dixon seeks relief pursuant to § 2255 alleging: (1) that
his due process rights were violated when the Court ordered
that four United States marshals be positioned around the
defense table throughout the trial; (2) prosecutorial