Jackson v. United States

In 2011, Jackson was convicted and Kelly pleaded guilty to cocaine-related charges. The Seventh Circuit remanded Jackson's 360-month sentence for consideration under the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) based on the Supreme Court’s 2012 "Dorsey" holding. With a new Guidelines range of 262-327 months, the court sentenced Jackson to 200 months’ imprisonment. Jackson then filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Jackson testified that his attorney, Ratcliffe, advised that the only way to preserve an FSA claim was to go to trial. Kelly testified that he told Jackson that he could take a plea agreement and preserve his right to argue that the FSA on appeal and that Jackson wanted to discuss this information with Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe testified that “Jackson never told [him] that he wanted to explore plea agreements.” A magistrate recommended granting Jackson’s petition, finding that Jackson established deficient performance and prejudice. The credibility assessment came out in Jackson’s favor. The district court nonetheless denied Jackson’s petition, stating that Jackson was unable to establish prejudice and rejecting the magistrate’s credibility determinations. The Seventh Circuit vacated. A district court may not reject a magistrate’s credibility findings, based on a witness’s live testimony, without first holding a de novo evidentiary hearing. View "Jackson v. United States" on Justia Law