United States v. Morris (P)

Because precedent at the time of the defendant’s 2013 sentencing did not strongly suggest that his career-offender enhancement was improper, counsel was not ineffective. Thus, the district court did not err in denying the defendant’s requested relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

At issue in this case is whether the defendant’s Virginia conviction for attempted abduction qualifies as a crime of violence and, more immediately, whether his trial lawyer rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to argue the issue. What law there was at the time, far from “strongly supporting” the defendant’s argument, tilted decidedly in the other direction, making it unlikely that his career-offender objection could succeed. Under those circumstances, trial counsel’s failure to object to the enhancement does not fall below the professional norms of reasonableness that govern the Strickland test’s performance prong.


United States v. Morris (P), No. 17-6709, Mar. 8, 2019. 4th Cir. (Harris) from EDVA at Newport News (Davis).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published


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