United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court are Defendant Cyrus Casby's Motion to Vacate
under 28 U.S.C. 2255 (R. Doc. 388) and Motion for Evidentiary
Hearing (R. Doc. 394). The Government opposes (R. Doc. 396),
and Cyrus Casby filed a reply (R. Doc. 397). Having
considered the parties' briefs, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.
Parish Sheriff's Deputies responded to a fire in
Apartment C of a two-story four-plex at 1005 Tallowtree Lane
in Harvey, Louisiana in the early morning of November 10,
2014. The bodies of Cynthia Carto, her 19-month-old daughter
Cyanna Carto, Janice Carto, and Cleveland McGinnis, Jr. were
found inside. Cynthia died from multiple stab wounds before
the fire started. Janice and Cleveland also had stab wounds
but were alive when the fire began. They, along with Cyanna,
died as a result of the fire. Jarvis Carto survived the fire
but sustained significant brain damage.
Cyrus Casby (“Casby”) was taken to the Jefferson
Parish Sheriff's Office within an hour. Casby waived his
Miranda rights and gave three statements to
detectives. In the first two, Casby denied setting the fire
but admitted that he was in the apartment a few hours before
the fire and had an altercation with unknown males who tried
to steal his car radio. In the third, Casby admitted to
fighting with and stabbing the Carto family in self-defense
and burning his leg as he fled the apartment. Casby was
prosecuted for four counts of second degree murder in the
24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson. On
May 31, 2008, the jury acquitted him of all counts.
2, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Casby for arson that
resulted in the deaths of Cyanna and Cleveland and the
injuries of Janice, Jarvis, and Fireman Walter Allen, in
violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(i).
This Court made numerous accommodations in its appointment of
counsel throughout this case. First, two attorneys were
appointed for the then-capital proceedings: Valerie Welz
Jusselin and Kerry P. Cuccia. After motions were filed and
hearings were held, the Court granted Casby's request to
replace them with two CJA-appointed counsel. When the
Government indicated it would not seek the death penalty, the
Court appointed Robin Ljungberg in place of the two prior CJA
counsel. Mr. Ljungberg was appointed at the recommendation of
the Federal Public Defender, and he represented Casby at
was convicted after a five-day trial. He then fired Mr.
Ljungberg, and the Court appointed Michael Riehlmann.
Ultimately, Casby fired Mr. Riehlmann and retained his
seventh attorney in this case, Jerome Matthews.
Casby was sentenced to life imprisonment and a notice of
appeal was filed, Mr. Matthews was permitted to withdraw.
Casby filed a motion to proceed pro se in his criminal
appeal, and the Fifth Circuit allowed Julie Tizzard, counsel
hired by Casby's family, to withdraw. The Fifth Circuit
gave Casby three opportunities to pursue his appeal before
finally dismissing his appeal for want of prosecution on
December 2, 2016. R. Docs. 343, 344, 355, 373, 384, 385. The
United States Supreme Court denied Casby's petition for
writ of certiorari. R. Doc. 386.
proceeding pro se, moves the Court to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. R. Doc.
388. He divides his motion into twelve separate claims: (1)
DNA contamination/spoliation; (2) failure to prove the
elements of the indictment; (3) double jeopardy; (4) district
court's denial of motion to suppress statements; (5)
district court's evidentiary rulings under Rule 403; (6)
pro se denial during trial; (7) discovery/Brady issues; (8)
failure to receive medication while awaiting trial; (9)
representation affected by trial counsel's alcohol
addiction; (10) false testimony; (11) attorney's failure
to secure evidence; and (12) ineffective cross examination.
Casby alleges ineffective assistance of counsel throughout
these twelve grounds. Furthermore, Casby requests an
evidentiary hearing with respect to grounds one and eight,
and asks the Court to hold ground three (double jeopardy) in
abeyance pending the Supreme Court's ruling in Gamble
v. United States.
opposition, the Government argues that Casby fails to
establish ineffective assistance of counsel, and that he has
not demonstrated the cause and actual prejudice necessary to
pursue matters more appropriate for appellate review through
a 2255 motion. R. Doc. 396.
28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner may move the convicting
court to vacate, set aside, or correct his conviction or
sentence. Section 2255 provides four grounds: (1) the
sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws
of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction
to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeds the
statutory maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is otherwise
subject to collateral attack. Upon a finding that any of the
four grounds for relief exist, the court “shall vacate
and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner
or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the
sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C. §
has, of course, long been settled that an error that may
justify reversal on direct appeal will not necessarily
support a collateral attack on a final judgment.”
United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 184
(1979). “Section 2255 does not offer recourse to all
who suffer trial errors.” United States v.
Capua, 656 F.2d 1033, 1037 (5th Cir. Unit A 1981).
Relief under § 2255 is “reserved for
transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow
range of injuries that could not have been raised on ...