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Martin v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 14, 2017

DONALD J. MARTIN, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Donald J. Martin (“Petitioner” or “Martin”) has moved for correction of his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based on ineffective assistance of counsel and the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). For the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to a plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), Petitioner pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of a mixture containing cocaine base (crack cocaine), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 851 (a)(1); and one count of carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). See United States of America v. Martin, 1:08-cr-00124-LJM-TAB-01, Dkt. No. 156 (“Criminal Dkt. No. 156”). Prior to Petitioner's plea hearing, the United States (the “Government”) filed an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851(a)(1), alleging that Petitioner had a prior felony drug conviction. Criminal Dkt. No. 24. The plea agreement provided that, in the event that Petitioner was sentenced to a total of 270 months imprisonment, Petitioner “expressly waive[d] his right to appeal the conviction and any sentence imposed in this case on any and all grounds, . . . [and] expressly agree[d] not to contest, or seek to modify, his conviction or sentence or the manner in which it was determined in any type of proceeding, including, but not limited to, an action brought under 18 U.S.C. § 3582 or 28 U.S.C. § 2255.” Criminal Dkt. No. 72.

         Petitioner moved for and was granted a mental competency examination as well as a second opinion regarding same. Criminal Dkt. Nos. 94, 013, 114, 123, 124. Petitioner was deemed competent. Criminal Dkt. No. 124.

         Petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 270 months of imprisonment. Criminal Dkt. No. 156.

         In his Petitioner, Martin asserts that his counsel was ineffective at sentencing because counsel allowed Martin to be sentenced when he was incompetent. Specifically, the report contained inconsistent information, which was never raised by counsel. Dkt. No. 1 at 4. In his supplemental petition, Martin challenges his sentence under the Johnson case, which rendered the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutional, and was made retroactive by Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). Dkt. No. 22.



         Petitioner's motion with respect to ineffective assistance of counsel must be denied. First, Martin waived his right to see post-conviction relief when he made his plea. If the “plea was voluntary, the waiver of appeal [or post-conviction collateral relief] must be enforced.” Nunez v. United States, 546 F.3d 450, 453 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court concluded at the hearing that Petitioner's plea was entered into knowingly and voluntarily. He has presented nothing new in his Petition or other papers to undermine that conclusion.

         Second, although waiver can be overcome in certain circumstances, Petitioner has failed to evidence that he is entitled to relief under the high bar set by the ineffective assistance of counsel standard. Under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an accused has a right to “reasonably effective assistance” of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). The right to effective assistance of counsel is denied when the performance of counsel falls below an objective standard of reasonable professional conduct and thereby prejudices the defense. See Yaborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 5 (2003) (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 668-94). For Petitioner to establish that his “counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal” of a conviction or sentence, he must make two showings: (1) deficient performance that (2) prejudiced his defense. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.

         With respect to the first element of the Strickland test, “The proper measure of attorney performance remains simply reasonableness under prevailing professional norms.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 521 (2003) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688). “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. The performance of counsel is evaluated from counsel's perspective at that time, making every effort to “eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight.” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 523 (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688). See also Kokoraleis v. Gilmore, 131 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 1997). Because there is a strong presumption that counsel's representation is effective, “[t]he question is whether an attorney's representation amounted to incompetence under prevailing professional norms, not whether it deviated from best practices or most common custom.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 88 (2011).

         Here, Petitioner merely argues that his counsel should have argued that the inconsistencies in the psychologist's evaluations rendered him incompetent to enter into a plea. This is not enough to show that counsel's performance fell below the prevailing professional norm. In fact, counsel raised Petitioner's long-standing psychological problems at the hearing, and, having assessed the reports and the Court's ruling thereon, concluded that Martin had voluntarily and knowingly entered into the plea. Sentencing Tr. at 4. And, the Court also acknowledged Petitioner's issues in its discussion of the § 3553(a) factors, noting that considerable time and effort had been put in to determine Petitioner's mental competency, and that multiple doctors had concluded that Martin was competent. Id. at 8-9. Moreover, the Court stated that, in its experience, Petitioner's struggle to accept responsibility was not unusual. Id. Petitioner's mental health issues were competently raised by counsel and addressed by the Court at sentencing.

         Further, Petitioner presents no argument or evidence that he was prejudiced in any way by the manner in which counsel raised his mental health issues. As previously discussed, counsel mentioned the competency evaluations and his own conclusion that Petitioner entered into the plea agreement knowingly and voluntarily. The Court also pointed out the multiple competency evaluations and the findings therein, which all pointed to a conclusion that Martin was competent to enter into a plea agreement. In addition, Petitioner presents no evidence that the sentence that he received would ...

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