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United States v. Walton

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 7, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMAL MARTIN WALTON

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se prisoner Jamal Martin Walton (“Walton”) has filed a motion[1] for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). Walton requests that the Court vacate its April 2015 order[2] dismissing with prejudice Walton's first motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. As the basis for his motion, Walton argues that his habeas counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim in his habeas proceedings that Walton's guilty plea was entered involuntarily.

         I.

         On March 17, 2011, Walton was charged in all counts of a seven-count superseding indictment.[3] Pursuant to a plea agreement, on September 30, 2011, Walton pleaded guilty to counts one and three of the superseding indictment; the remaining counts were dismissed.[4] Count one 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, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o).[5] Count three charged that on or about June 9, 2004, Walton and others, aiding and abetting each other, with the intent to cause death and serious bodily harm, and by force, violence, and intimidation, did take from the person and presence of Nathaniel Robertson, a motor vehicle and did intentionally cause the death of Nathaniel Robertson by shooting him with a semiautomatic assault rifle.[6]

         On February 23, 2012, Walton moved to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that he did not enter it knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily.[7] Walton, through counsel, argued that Walton's cognitive impairments prevented him from being able to understand his legal situation and make informed choices about his case.[8] In support of his motion, Walton submitted a supplemental letter to this Court alleging ineffective assistance of counsel-specifically, that his counsel misinformed him as to the possibility of receiving a life sentence, even if he pleaded guilty. Based on a review of the record, Walton's plea colloquy, Walton's affirmations to the Court, and expert evaluations, this Court denied Walton's motion.[9]

         On March 30, 2012, this Court sentenced Walton to a term of imprisonment of 240 months as to count one and 480 months as to count three, to be served concurrently.[10] Walton appealed this Court's judgment and the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.[11] The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this Court's ruling on Walton's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and affirmed Walton's sentence imposed by this Court.[12] Walton subsequently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was denied.[13]

         On November 30, 2014, Walton, represented by counsel, filed his first petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to § 2255.[14] Walton alleged that his forty-year sentence violated the Eighth Amendment, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his guilty plea and sentencing in violation of the Sixth Amendment.[15] On April 2, 2015, this Court denied Walton's request for post-conviction relief and dismissed his § 2255 petition with prejudice.[16]This Court also declined to issue a certificate of appealability (“COA”).[17] Walton appealed this Court's dismissal of his § 2255 petition, and he requested a COA from the Fifth Circuit, which the Fifth Circuit denied because Walton failed to make the required showing of the denial of a constitutional right.[18] Walton again filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was denied.[19]

         On May 6, 2019, Walton filed his second § 2255 petition,[20] which this Court transferred to the Fifth Circuit for authorization to file a successive habeas application in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2244 and § 2255(h).[21] The Fifth Circuit ordered Walton to file a motion for authorization within thirty days of its order.[22]Because Walton did not timely file a motion in compliance with the Fifth Circuit's order, [23] on July 23, 2019, the Fifth Circuit dismissed his request for authorization to file a successive 2255 petition.[24]

         On July 10, 2019, Walton filed his motion currently before the Court, requesting relief from the Court's judgment as to Walton's first 2255 petition filed on November 30, 2014.

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) authorizes a court to “relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . any other reason that justifies relief.” Courts must distinguish between motions under Rule 60(b) and petitions seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to ensure that petitioners do not use Rule 60(b) motions to “make an end-run around [§ 2255]'s exacting procedural requirements.” United States v. Patton, 750 Fed.Appx. 259, 263 (5th Cir. 2018). Habeas petitions under § 2255 require prior authorization from a federal court of appeals before a defendant may file a “second or successive” application in federal district court. See United States v. Jones, 796 F.3d 483, 484-85 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A)).

         A defendant's motion for relief is properly brought under Rule 60(b) if the defendant “merely asserts that a previous ruling which precluded a merits determination was in error-for example, a denial for such reasons as failure to exhaust, procedural default, or statute-of-limitations bar.” Patton, 750 Fed.Appx. at 263 (quoting Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 532 n.4 (2005)). To succeed on a Rule 60(b)(6) motion in a federal habeas proceeding, the movant must show “a non-merits-based defect in the district court's earlier decision on the federal habeas petition.” In re Edwards, 865 F.3d 197, 204 (5th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Edwards v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 909 (2017) (citing Ballantine v. Thaler, 626 F.3d 842, 847 (5th Cir. 2010)). A Rule 60(b) motion is not considered a second or successive habeas petition if it “attacks, not the substance of the federal court's resolution of a claim on the merits, but some defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings.” Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 532.

         “[W]here a Rule 60(b) motion advances one or more substantive claims, as opposed to a merely procedural claim, the motion should be construed as a successive § 2255 motion.” United States v. Hernandes, 708 F.3d 680, 681 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 532 & n. 4). The Supreme Court has explained that “an attack based on the movant's own conduct, or his habeas ...


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