The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over U.S. District Courts in Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio.
In 2015, a total of 52,698 federal appeals were filed in the 12 regional Courts of Appeals, including the Sixth Circuit. Some of those appeals were critical to the nation’s national security, economy, and criminal justice system. Some were so frivolous as to barely merit summary dismissal.
A few were unique, different from all other appeals heard by the courts. An even fewer of these cases involved issues presented to the courts for the first time. That was the situation when the Sixth Circuit entertained an appeal out of the Eastern District of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The appeal dealt with the case of Jeffery T. Walker which was decided by the Sixth Circuit on April 11, 2016.
Walker’s case actually began more than two decades ago.
In 1995, he pleaded to a drug trafficking offense and to carrying a gun during that drug trafficking offense. During this offense of conviction, Walker reportedly pointed a weapon at the police when they arrested him. He was sentenced to 270 months of incarceration and five years of supervised release.
Model Prisoner for 19 Years
Walker spent 19 years in the federal prison system before being released in 2013. The Sixth Circuit noted that he had been a “model prisoner” during his incarceration, going so far as to protect a prison guard from an inmate assault. He was also a “model citizen” the first year of his supervised release. He moved to Alabama where he got a job, paid his bills, and bought a house that he “improved in many ways.” He kept his house clean and pretty much tended to his own business. He paid off some old fines that allowed him to get a driver’s license. By any social measure, he was doing precisely what his penal rehabilitation had instructed.
But things began to sour for Walker when he discovered that he had what he believed was one of those “neighbors from hell.”
The Sixth Circuit opened its April 11 decision by quoting Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Uncollected Dog Dropping Leads to Horrific Attack with Machete
But the court added: “Maybe so. But this is a first for us—a dispute between next-door neighbors about uncollected dog deposits that degenerated into a near-fatal assault with a machete.”
It seems the neighbor’s dog adopted a special fondness for defecating in Walker’s yard around the house he had worked so hard to clean up and improve. Like any good responsible citizen, Walker let the neighbor know about the dog’s unwelcomed deposits in his yard. The neighbor did not respond. Walker then contacted the police, but once again to no avail. The neighbor apparently believed his dog could deposit his bounty wherever and whenever the urge struck him; and the police apparently believed that they had more important business fighting drugs and violence than refereeing a dog pooh-pooh dispute.
At the end of the day, however, both the neighbor’s and the police’s refusal to act had tragic consequences, especially for the neighbor.
He Couldn’t Take Anymore of the Sh… Deposits
There came a day when the dog deposits were just too much for Walker to take. He placed a bucket over the most recent deposit by the dog and asked the neighbor to clean the “offending mess” up. The neighbor responded by coming into Walker’s yard with a stick in his hand. It is unclear why the neighbor had the stick: either to attack Walker or clean up the offending mess.
Attacks with Machete, Loses Arm
What is clear is that Walker interpreted the neighbor’s approach as a threatening gesture. He responded by attacking the neighbor with a machete. The attack left the neighbor with a severely cut arm (that would be eventually amputated), a shattered elbow, a slashed head, and a nerve severed in his leg.
Another neighbor who witnessed the attack called 911.
Walker told the police he acted in self-defense, but their investigation revealed that Walker “had no cuts, scratches or bruises on him;” and there was no evidence that the neighbor “had ever threatened [Walker], swung the stick at him, or even raised the stick.”
Indicted for Attempted Murder, Violation of Federal Supervised Release
A state grand jury indicted Walker for attempted murder.
That indictment violated the terms of Walker’s federal supervised release; namely, that he obey all state laws. Walker owned up to the violation, accepting responsibility by admitting he committed an assault. The U.S. District Court in Chattanooga revoked Walker’s supervised release and imposed the maximum five-year term. The court said that Walker’s actions of “using a machete in a confrontation like this [was not] a reasonable response” and that “the need to protect the public” argued in favor of the “statutory maximum sentence.”
In reaching this conclusion, the district court paid tribute to Walker’s individual rehabilitation by saying he “went out of his way to be a good citizen,” attempted “to protect other people who found themselves in danger,” and tried “to do what most citizens do, get a job, be a constructive, and productive member of society” in pursuit of “the American dream.”
But as the Sixth Circuit pointed out, “… a free and safe society cannot accept the kind of behavior Mr. Walker exhibited. Being a good citizen for 364 days of the year is not of much use if this is what happens on the 365th day. “
Five Years plus Attempted Murder Charge
Walker still faces the attempted murder charge in Alabama. The Sixth Circuit said it hoped that Walker will get “mental health counseling” that will make his “next adjustment to freedom after his next stay(s) in prison more successful.”
We hope so as well.