United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
Hannah Lauck, United States District Judge.
Lawson Taylor, Jr., a federal inmate proceeding pro
se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255
Motion," ECF No. 71). Taylor contends that the Court made
various errors at his sentencing, and that he received the
ineffective assistance of counsel prior to and at sentencing.
Specifically, Taylor argues:
Claim One: The District Court committed sentencing errors
(a) his "guidelines produced a sentence greater than
necessary to satisfy [18 U.S.C. §] 3533(a);"
(b) the District Court "did not adequately explain the
reasonableness of [Taylor's] sentence . . . according to
[18 U.S.C. §] 3533(a);"
(c) the District Court "did not take [Taylor's]
evidence into consideration at sentencing in light of 18
U.S.C. [§] 3661;" and,
(d) the District Court "violated Rule 609(2) by not
allowing evidence to be admitted or considered for the
purpose of imposing an appropriate sentence." (§
2255 Mot. 4.)
Claim Two: Taylor received the ineffective assistance of
counsel because counsel failed to "conduct a reasonable
investigation into mitigating evidence" before
sentencing and failed to present mitigating evidence at
sentencing (id. at 7), such as:
(a) evidence of his childhood upbringing and abuse and
evidence of the psychiatric effect of such childhood abuse
(Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. 1); and,
(b) evidence of the "coercion and duress" Taylor
faced at the time of the crime for which he was convicted
(id. at 5).
Government has responded, arguing that Taylor has
procedurally defaulted Claims One (a) through (d), and that
his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are
meritless. (ECF No. 79.) In support of its argument, the
Government has submitted an affidavit from Jeffrey L.
Everhart, Taylor's sentencing counsel. ("Everhart
Aff," ECF No. 79-1.) Taylor replied to the
Government's Response with a Memorandum in Support of his
§ 2255 Motion. (ECF No. 87.) The matter is ripe for
7, 2013, Taylor was named in a one-count Indictment charging
him with possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or
more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable
amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii). (Indictment 1, ECF
No. 13.) On June 18, 2013, Taylor pled guilty to the
one-count Indictment. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 18.)
In his Plea Agreement, Taylor waived his right to appeal.
(Id. ¶ 5.)
October 24, 2013, Taylor's counsel submitted a Motion for
a Psychiatric Exam of Taylor and a Motion to Withdraw as
Counsel. (ECF Nos. 37-38.) Thereafter, counsel filed amended
versions of these two Motions. (ECF Nos. 39-40.) On November
4, 2013, the Court granted both Motions. (ECF Nos. 43-44.)
That same day, the Court appointed new counsel for Taylor.
(ECF No. 45.)
December 13, 2013, the Court received the report of
Taylor's psychiatric exam. (ECFNo. 47.) This report was
issued by Evan S. Nelson, Ph.D. (Id. at 10.) Also on
December 13, 2013, Taylor moved for a second psychiatric
exam. (ECF No. 46.) On January 13, 2014, the Court held a
status conference and heard from Taylor about why he
requested a second psychiatric exam. (See Jan. 13,
2014 Tr. 1-7, ECF No. 62; ECF No. 50.) After hearing from
Taylor and his counsel, the Court granted Taylor's
request for a second psychiatric evaluation. (Jan. 13, 2014
Tr. 7-8.) On March 6, 2014, the Court received the second
psychiatric report. (ECF No. 51.) This report was issued by
Ahmed Sherif Abdel Meguid, MD, FRCPC. (Id. at 9.)
April 14, 2014, the Court conducted a sentencing hearing.
(See Apr. 14, 2014 Tr. 2, ECF No. 61.) The Court
entered judgment against Taylor and sentenced him to 130
months of imprisonment and four years of supervised release.
(J. 2-3, ECF No. 53.) Taylor appealed. (ECFNo. 55.)
appeal, Taylor's counsel filed a brief pursuant to
Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), asserting
that there were no meritorious grounds for appeal but
questioning whether the Court appropriately considered the
statutory sentencing factors. United States v.
Taylor, 585 Fed.Appx. 159, 159 (4th Cir. 2014). Taylor
also filed a pro se supplemental brief, wherein he
alleged that he was improperly sentenced because the Court
did not subpoena his psychiatrist or consider his mitigating
evidence at sentencing, and because his counsel did not
properly prepare and present mitigating evidence.
Id. On November 6, 2014, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that Taylor's
appellate waiver was valid and dismissed Taylor's appeal.
Id. at 159-60.