United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Anthony Watson's pro se petition
for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He seeks
relief from his 300-month sentence imposed after pleading
guilty to second-degree murder. Having considered the issues
presented, the record, and relevant authorities, the Court
finds that the Motion should be granted in part to allow an
evidentiary hearing on Defendant's claim that his
attorney was ineffective for failing to timely file a notice
of appeal, and dismissed in all other respects.
March 18, 2015, a federal grand jury returned a three-count
indictment charging Anthony Watson and his co-defendant
Joshua Martin with the unlawful murder of Sharod Vaughn
during a drug-trafficking crime. In lieu of proceeding on the
original charges, Watson agreed to waive superseding
indictment and proceed on a single-count information alleging
second-degree murder. Pursuant to a written plea agreement,
Watson appeared before this Court with his lawyer, Aafram Y.
Sellers, on May 20, 2016, to plead guilty to the information.
The Court sentenced Watson to 300 months in prison on
September 22, 2016. Watson did not appeal, having waived the
right to do so.
September 25, 2017, Watson filed this petition, contending
that Sellers (a) erroneously advised him of the consequences
of his guilty plea, and (b) failed to appeal his sentence.
Watson has requested that an evidentiary hearing be held on
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established
by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the
ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court
was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the
sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or
is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court
which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
“an informed and voluntary waiver of post-conviction
relief is effective to bar such relief.” United
States v. Wilkes, 20 F.3d 651, 653 (5th Cir. 1994).
“[W]hen the record of the Rule 11 hearing clearly
indicates that a defendant has read and understands his plea
agreement, and that he raised no question regarding a
waiver-of-appeal provision, the defendant will be held to the
bargain to which he agreed.” United States v.
Portillo, 18 F.3d 290, 293 (5th Cir. 1994). Claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel are excepted from the
general rule and may be brought in a § 2255 proceeding,
but “only when the claimed [ineffective] assistance
directly affected the validity of that waiver or the plea
itself.” United States v. White, 307 F.3d 336,
343 (5th Cir. 2002)
record reveals that Watson knowingly and voluntarily waived
his right to challenge his sentence via § 2255 petition.
Watson's appeal waiver is contained in the written plea
agreement that he and his attorney read and signed.
See Docket No. 16 at 4-6. It was also discussed at
the change of plea hearing, where Watson specifically
confirmed that he had read and discussed with his counsel,
understood, signed, and agreed with the terms of the plea
agreement and plea supplement. See Audio of Change
of Plea Hearing, May 20, 2016, at 13:35-16:00. Additionally,
Watson advised the Court that when discussing these documents
with Sellers, Sellers permitted him to ask questions about
the documents and counsel answered those questions to
Watson's satisfaction. Id. The Court performed a
detailed probing of Watson's comprehension of the guilty
plea and its consequences, including all rights waived, and
Watson's responses demonstrated that he was competent,
knew the appeal rights he was giving up, and did so freely in
order to plead guilty. Id. at 19:10-20:15.
this record, Watson's appeal waiver must be enforced as
to his claims for relief under § 2255.