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Teague v. Walton

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 9, 2014

DAVID TEAGUE, No. 05634-040, Petitioner,
JEFFREY S. WALTON, Respondent.


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on petitioner's second application in this district for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. He filed the instant petition on March 17, 2014.

Petitioner is serving a 180-month sentence at the United States Prison at Marion, and again brings a challenge to this enhanced sentence. He entered an open plea of guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and was convicted in the Western District of Missouri ( United States v. Teague, Case No. 06-cr-3042). On September 7, 2007, he was sentenced as an armed career criminal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), because he had three prior qualifying felony convictions. These included two burglary convictions, which are the focus of his claim for habeas relief. His criminal record also included a robbery conviction.

In his direct appeal, petitioner argued that his prior convictions should not have been considered as "violent felonies" under § 924(e).[1] The appellate court concluded that the prior convictions for burglary and robbery were properly counted as "violent felony" offenses, noting that the pre-sentence report included a factual description (to which petitioner had not objected) that each burglary involved the unlawful entry into a commercial building with the intent to commit larceny. United States v. Teague, 301 F.Appx. 62 (8th Cir. 2009). Hence, there was no error in imposing the enhanced armed-career-criminal sentence. The Supreme Court denied his petition for a writ of certiorari on May 4, 2009. Teague v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 2170 (2009).

Petitioner's timely collateral attack under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was unsuccessful (W. D. Mo. Case No. 09-3292, filed August 3, 2009). He attempted to bring a successive § 2255 proceeding in 2012, but was denied leave to do so (W. D. Mo. Case No. 12-3450; 8th Cir. Case No. 12-3902).

In his previous § 2241 petition, he challenged his sentence on the basis that neither the burglary offenses nor the robbery involved the use of a firearm on his part, thus they should not have been counted as predicate offenses for the armed-career-criminal enhancement. This Court rejected that argument and dismissed the petition with prejudice on August 19, 2013. Teague v. Walton, Case No. 13-cv-745-DRH.

I. The Petition

This time, petitioner relies on Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), which held that a defendant's enhanced sentence was improper where one of his previous convictions was for burglary under a California statute which criminalized conduct beyond the "generic" elements of the crime of burglary (unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime). Petitioner suggests that the sentencing court in his case did not examine the elements of the Arkansas burglary statute under which he was convicted, in order to determine whether it contained the generic burglary elements. Instead, the court relied on the findings and recommendations of the United States Probation Officer who compiled the pre-sentence report (Doc. 1, p. 7). The petition does not include any further information on the Arkansas statute itself, however. The two convictions in question date back to 1966.

II. Discussion

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District Courts provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner." Rule 1(b) of those Rules gives this Court the authority to apply the rules to other habeas corpus cases. After carefully reviewing the petition in the present case, the Court concludes that petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the petition must be dismissed.

As a general rule, § 2241 is the appropriate means by which to challenge the execution of a sentence, while § 2255 is to be used to challenge the validity of a conviction and sentence. See Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012); Kramer v. Olson, 347 F.3d 214, 217 (7th Cir. 2003); Walker v. O'Brien, 216 F.3d 626, 629 (7th Cir. 2000). Clearly, petitioner is attacking the validity of his sentence, but that does not end the analysis.

Under very limited circumstances, a prisoner may employ § 2241 to challenge his federal conviction or sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) contains a "savings clause" which authorizes a federal prisoner to file a § 2241 petition where the remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). See Hill v. Werlinger, 695 F.3d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 2012) ("Inadequate or ineffective' means that a legal theory that could not have been presented under § 2255 establishes the petitioner's actual innocence.'") (citing Taylor v. Gilkey, 314 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2002). The fact that petitioner may be barred from bringing a second/successive § 2255 petition is not, in itself, sufficient to render it an inadequate remedy. In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 1998). Instead, a petitioner under § 2241 must demonstrate the inability of a § 2255 motion to cure the defect in the conviction. "A procedure for postconviction relief can be fairly termed inadequate when it is so configured as to deny a convicted defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification of so fundamental a defect in his conviction as having been imprisoned for a nonexistent offense." Davenport, 147 F.3d at 611.

The Seventh Circuit has explained that, in order to fit within the savings clause following Davenport, a petitioner must meet three conditions. First, he must show that he relies on a new statutory interpretation case rather than a constitutional case. Secondly, he must show that he relies on a decision that he could not have invoked in his first § 2255 motion, and that case must apply retroactively. Lastly, he must demonstrate that there has been a "fundamental defect" in his conviction or sentence that is grave enough to be deemed a miscarriage of justice. Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013). See also Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012).

Petitioner's argument fails to bring his claim within the savings clause. While Descamps v. United States is a statutory interpretation case, and too recent to have been available to petitioner at the time he filed his § 2255 motion, it does not represent a change in the law regarding whether a burglary conviction may qualify as a predicate felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The Descamps opinion reiterated the "categorical approach" analysis outlined in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990), which ...

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