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United States v. Walton

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 2, 2015



LANCE M. AFRICK, District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion[1] filed by defendant, Jamal Martin Walton ("Walton"), to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government filed an opposition, [2] to which Walton filed a reply.[3] For the following reasons, the Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required, the motion is DENIED, and Walton's post-conviction application is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


On March 17, 2011, Walton was charged in all counts of a 7-count superseding indictment.[4] As discussed below, Walton eventually pleaded guilty to counts 1 and 3 pursuant to a plea agreement. Count 1 charged that on or about June 9, 2004, Walton and others conspired to use, carry, brandish, and discharge a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, to wit: carjacking, as charged in count 3.[5] Count 3 charged that on or about June 9, 2004, Walton and others, aiding and abetting each other, with the intent to cause death and seriously bodily harm, and by force, violence, and intimidation, did take from Nathaniel Robertson ("Robertson") a motor vehicle which had been transported, shipped, and received in interstate or foreign commerce, and did intentionally cause Robertson's death by shooting him.[6]

On September 29, 2011, Walton appeared for rearraignment.[7] Walton stated in part that: (1) he understood the charges against him and the elements of the offenses;[8] (2) he understood that the Court could impose the maximum possible sentence on him, [9] up to and including a life sentence;[10] (3) the sentencing guidelines applicable to his case had been explained to him by counsel;[11] (4) he understood that the guidelines are advisory, not binding on the Court, and the Court could depart from the guidelines;[12] and (5) he understood that the Court would not be able to determine the guideline sentence until after the presentence report ("PSR") had been completed.[13] Walton further stated that nobody, including his attorney, had told him what sentence he might receive.[14]

Walton admitted to the factual basis[15] and stated that he was pleading guilty because he did the acts charged in the superseding indictment.[16] Walton further stated that he was pleading guilty voluntarily[17] and that he was entirely satisfied with the advice and services of his attorney, Carol Kolinchak ("Kolinchak").[18] The government summarized each provision in the plea agreement.[19] The Court explained the waiver of appellate and post-conviction rights, [20] and Walton indicated that he entered into such waiver voluntarily.[21] The Court found that Walton's guilty plea was knowledgeable, voluntary, and had a basis in fact containing all the elements of the crimes charged in counts 1 and 3 of the superseding indictment, and it accepted the guilty plea as to those counts.[22]

On February 16, 2012, the final PSR was filed into the record by U.S. Probation which included a sentencing guideline and recommendation of life imprisonment.[23] On February 23, 2012, Walton filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.[24] The Court conducted a hearing[25] and denied the motion.[26] At the March 29, 2012 sentencing hearing, after addressing numerous objections to the PSR, [27] the Court imposed a nonguideline sentence of 40 years, representing 240 months as to count 1 and 480 months as to count 3, to be served concurrently.[28]

Walton appealed the denial of the motion to withdraw his guilty plea and his sentence, [29] but the Fifth Circuit affirmed.[30] United States v. Walton, 537 F.Appx. 430 (5th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 712 (2013). The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on December 2, 2013, [31] and Walton filed his § 2255 motion, with assistance of counsel, on November 30, 2014.[32] Accordingly, Walton's motion is timely because it was filed within one year after the judgment against him became final. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).


Section 2255(a) provides a prisoner in custody with four grounds upon which relief may be granted: (1) "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence;" (3) "that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" or (4) that the sentence "is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); see Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962). Section 2255 is designed to remedy constitutional errors and other injuries that could not be brought on direct appeal and would result in injustice if left unaddressed. See United States v. Williamson, 183 F.3d 458, 462 (5th Cir. 1999). "[A] proceeding under Section 2255 is an independent and collateral inquiry into the validity of the conviction...." United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 222-23 (1952). The inquiry does not extend to the misapplication of sentencing guidelines. See Williamson, 183 F.3d at 462.

"The § 2255 remedy is broad and flexible, and entrusts to the courts the power to fashion an appropriate remedy." United States v. Garcia, 956 F.2d 41, 45 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Andrews v. United States, 373 U.S. 334, 339 (1963)). Pursuant to § 2255, the Court must grant defendant a hearing to determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law unless "the motion, files, and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." United States v. Bartholomew, 974 F.2d 39, 41 (5th Cir. 1992).

"The Supreme Court has emphasized repeatedly that a collateral challenge may not do service for an appeal." United States v. Shaid, 937 F.2d 228, 231 (5th Cir. 1991) (quotation omitted). "[T]he general rule [is] that claims not raised on direct appeal may not be raised on collateral review unless the petitioner shows cause and prejudice" or actual innocence. Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003); Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998). The Supreme Court has held that "failure to raise an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim on direct appeal does not bar the claim from being brought" in a § 2255 proceeding. Massaro, 538 U.S. at 509; see also, e.g., United States v. Johnson, 124 F.Appx. 914, 915 (5th Cir. 2005).


Walton has alleged two grounds for relief: (1) that this Court "improperly sentenced [him] to an effective life sentence and failed to consider his youth in sentencing in violation of the Eighth Amendment, "[33] and (2) that he "received prejudicially ineffective assistance of counsel related to his guilty plea and ...

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