United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
A. INGRAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
prisoner James Matthew Shelton has filed a motion under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence. D.E. 71. In his motion, Shelton argues five grounds
on which he submits he is being held in violation of the
Constitution of the United States. The first three grounds
claim ineffective assistance of his trial-level counsel, the
fourth ground claims ineffective assistance of his appellate
counsel, and the fifth ground alleges cumulative error.
Shelton asks the Court to “Vacate and Remand for
re-sentencing.” Id. at 12.
reviewed Shelton's motion and memorandum, the
government's response, and Shelton's reply in detail,
and upon consideration of the record, the Court
RECOMMENDS that Shelton's motion be
denied. The Court further RECOMMENDS that no
certificate of appealability be issued.
January 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment
charging Shelton with three counts involving the sexual
exploitation and enticement of minors. D.E. 1. In August
2016, Shelton pled guilty to Count 2 of the indictment, which
charged him with using a means and facility of interstate
commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, and coerce an
individual under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity
for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.
Id. at 1-2; D.E. 31. Defendant also admitted and
agreed to the forfeiture allegation contained in the
indictment. D.E. 32 at 1.
on Shelton's criminal history category and total offense
level, his Guidelines range was 210-262 months. D.E. 58 at 4.
The offense also carried a statutory minimum of ten years of
imprisonment. Id. On January 10, 2017, District
Judge Reeves sentenced Shelton to 262 months of imprisonment
to be followed by a life term of supervised release.
See D.E. 49 at 2, 3.
appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit, arguing that “the district court committed
reversible error at sentencing when it failed to address
Shelton personally in order to permit him to speak or present
any information to mitigate his sentence, as required by Fed.
R. Crim. P. 32(i)(4).” D.E. 71 at 2. The Sixth Circuit
affirmed Shelton's sentence. D.E. 61. Shelton did not
appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and he represents
that he has not filed any other motions for post-conviction
relief. See D.E. 71 at 2.
motion, Shelton raises five grounds on which he claims he is
entitled to relief. Each of the grounds asserts in some
fashion an ineffective assistance of counsel
argument. Under the test outlined in Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), Shelton must
first show that his counsel's performance was deficient.
“This requires showing that counsel made errors so
serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment.” Id. Second, Shelton must show that
his counsel's deficient performance prejudiced his
defense. “This requires showing that counsel's
errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair
trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” Id.
Shelton pled guilty, he “must show that there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he
would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on
going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S.
52, 59 (1985). Shelton bears the burden to prove his
allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. See Pough
v. United States, 442 F.3d 959, 964 (6th Cir. 2006). The
Court recognizes that Shelton is proceeding pro se,
without the assistance of an attorney, and thus construes his
motion liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007); Castro v. United States, 540 U.S.
375, 381-83 (2003); Franklin v. Rose, 765 F.2d 82,
85 (6th Cir. 1985) (per curiam).
first claims that his trial-level counsel was ineffective for
moving for a competency evaluation without adequately
considering whether his mental condition warranted the
evaluation or conferring with him, and for “misadvising
him . . . as to the evaluation being for sentence mitigation
purposes.” D.E. 71 at 4. He further claims that his
trial-level counsel's stipulation to the competency
report violated his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment
rights. Here, he contends that the stipulation prevented the
report from being subjected to “adversarial
testing” and that the report was “heavily relied
upon by the court in determination of the sentence ultimately
government does not specifically dispute Shelton's
factual assertion that his counsel failed to inform him that
his counsel would be requesting a competency evaluation on
his behalf. Thus, the Court will assume that Shelton's
trial-level counsel did not inform him about the request for
a competency evaluation. But, even with that fact viewed in
Shelton's favor, the record establishes that it was not
unreasonable for his trial-level counsel to have requested a
competency evaluation based on mental-health concerns. In
other words, Shelton has not shown that his counsel's
request that he undergo a competency evaluation was
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
addressed a similar argument by the defendant in United
States v. Boigegrain, 155 F.3d 1181 (10th Cir. 1998). In
that case, the defendant's attorney had requested that he
undergo a competency evaluation over the defendant's
objections. Boigegrain, 155 F.3d at 1187. On direct
appeal from the district court's commitment order, the
Tenth Circuit considered defendant's argument that
“his lawyer, the public defender, abandoned his role as
the defendant's advocate and therefore rendered
ineffective assistance of counsel in raising the competency
issue against the defendant's wishes.” Id.
Upon review, that court found no Fifth or Sixth Amendment
violation by defendant's counsel and held “that
when a lawyer has reason to believe that her client may not
be mentally competent to stand trial, she does not render
ineffective assistance of counsel by making her concerns
known to the court.” Id; see also Id. at 1188
(quoting American Bar Association Standards for Criminal
Justice). Although not binding, the Court finds this holding
to be persuasive.
case, defense counsel's motion for a competency
evaluation stated that he had “met with the Defendant,
talked with the Defendant's mother, studied the bond
report, and been made aware of the Defendant's long
history of mental health issues dating back to his early,
teenage years.” D.E. 13 at 1; see also D.E. 60
at 9 (“I filed the motion for the study  because of
his past history.”). Under the standard outlined in
Boigegrain, defendant's trial-level counsel did
not render ineffective assistance of counsel by presenting
the mental-health concerns about his client to the Court,
especially after his investigation revealed a lengthy history
of such concerns. See United States v. Jackson, 179
Fed.Appx. 921, 933 (6th Cir. 2006) (noting that defense
counsel “was discharging his ‘professional
duty' as an officer of the court to raise the issue if
counsel has a good faith doubt as to the defendant's
competence”) (citing Boigegrain, 155 F.3d at
even if Shelton's counsel's actions were deficient by
requesting a competency evaluation, Shelton has not shown
that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. Specifically, Shelton
cannot show he was prejudiced by the competency report
because his presentence investigation report, relied upon by
District Judge Reeves at sentencing, also contained an
extensive discussion of Shelton's mental-health issues.
D.E. 52 at 13-15. To state it differently, although District
Judge Reeves relied on Shelton's competency evaluation
during his sentencing, the information contained in that
report was the same in kind as that contained in
Shelton's presentence investigation report. See
D.E. 58 at 35 (discussing “mental health conditions
that are referenced in the report and were thoroughly
outlined in the competency evaluation performed previously by
the Bureau of Prisons”).
presentence investigation report, including discussion of
Shelton's mental and emotional health, would have been
prepared even if no competency evaluation had been conducted.
See Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(c)(1)(A), (d)(2)(A).
Notably, Shelton does not identify any objection to any of
the mental-health information in the presentence
investigation report that he claims counsel should have
raised. Thus, Shelton was not prejudiced by his counsel's
request that he undergo a competency evaluation because
District Judge Reeves would have been able to consider
similar information bearing on Shelton's mental health in
the presentence investigation report. See
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691 (“An error by counsel,
even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting
aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding if the error had
no effect on the judgment.”).
also briefly argues that his trial-level counsel provided
ineffective assistance by stipulating to the competency
evaluation report. Here, he claims a violation of his Fifth,
Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. However, because
Shelton has not developed this argument, the Court need not
do so for him. And, the record indicates that Shelton agreed
with his counsel's decision to stipulate to the report.
See D.E. 59 at 4 (“But he's willing to
allow the Court to make that finding just on the submission
of the report. We have nothing to refute any of the
information contained in there.”).
those issues aside, no Fifth Amendment issue arises when
“the psychiatrist's findings [are] confined to the
limited, neutral purpose of determining the defendant's
competency to stand trial.” United States v.
Thompson,462 Fed.Appx. 561, 564 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing
Estelle v. Smith,451 U.S. 454, 465 (1981)). Shelton
claims that the sanity evaluation that accompanied the
forensic report as to competency prejudiced him as well, but
he points to no evidence in support of that claim. He
likewise has not demonstrated a Sixth Amendment violation
occurred. Cf. Id. (“[T]he Sixth
Amendment's right-to-counsel protection in this context
at most requires that defense counsel be informed of the
‘nature and scope' of the evaluation and put
‘on notice' that he would have to anticipate the