Howard v. United States, No. 13-1602 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Howard has been involved with the criminal-justice system since he was 11 years old. In 2006, at age 21, he pleaded guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) as a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, his attorney objected to several Presentence Investigation Report assignments of criminal-history points for Howard’s juvenile offenses. The district court sustained two objections, leaving Howard in Criminal History Category V, with a guidelines-recommended range of 130 to 162 months of imprisonment. The court sentenced Howard to the statutory maximum of 120 months of imprisonment. Howard later filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255 alleging that his attorney’s representation was constitutionally deficient for failure to object to the PSR’s award of two criminal history points related to his juvenile stay at a school for adjudicated delinquents. The district court denied his petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Howard’s allegations of attorney misconduct and incompetence were troubling, and if proven true, might support a finding of constitutionally deficient performance, but in this case, the attorney’s representation did not run afoul of the Sixth Amendment’s basic protections. An objection would have been futile, and Howard did not explain how his sentence would be different but for the other misconduct he alleged.