In Griffith v. United States, No. 15-11877 (Sept. 26, 2017) (Ed Carnes, Rosenbaum, Dubina), the Court concluded that the district court erred by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing a 2255 motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.
The motion alleged that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to argue that some waste materials in the drug manufacturing process should not have been included as a “mixture or substance”in the drug quantity determination. After reviewing the case law on that subject in depth, it concluded that, accepting the allegations as true, counsel was deficient for failing to research circuit precedent on the issue–namely, whether certain liquids used to make methamphetamine were “usable” and thus countable. The Court also concluded that this deficient performance was prejudicial because the drug quantity determination raised the guideline range and triggered a mandatory minimum penalty, and there was nothing in the record indicating that these errors did not affect his sentence. In footnote 14, the Court said that this conclusion was consistent with the recent decision in Beeman, because, if his allegations were proven and he faced an erroneously high guideline range, then he would have likely received a lower sentence. After an extended discussion, the Court found it unnecessary to address the applicability of Molina-Martinez to the 2255 context.