United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
EDGAR L. MUIR, Petitioner,
FRANCISCO QUINTANA, Warden, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Edgar L. Muir is confined at the Federal Medical Center in
Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer, Muir has
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241. [Record No. 1]. For the reasons set forth
below, Muir's petition will be denied.
2008, Muir pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The maximum
sentence for violating § 922(g) is usually 10 years in
prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Tennessee determined that Muir had at least three previous
convictions for either a violent felony or a serious drug
offense that were committed on different occasions. As a
result, Muir was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of
15 years in prison pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act
(“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The district
court sentenced Muir to 211 months in prison. See United
States v. Muir, No. 1:07-cr-00097 (E.D. Tenn. 2008).
challenged his sentence on direct appeal, but the United
States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed that
sentence. See id. Muir did not file a motion to
vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
Instead, he filed a § 2241 petition with this Court,
challenging the validity of his sentence. This Court denied
Muir's petition, concluding that his claims were not
cognizable in a § 2241 petition. See Muir v.
Sepanek, No. 0:14-cv-008-HRW (E.D. Ky. 2014). Muir
appealed but the Sixth Circuit affirmed this Court's
decision, holding that “[a]n attack on the validity of
a conviction or sentence must be brought under § 2255 as
opposed to § 2241.” Muir v. Sepanek, No.
14-5515 (6th Cir. 2014). While the Sixth Circuit acknowledged
that “[a]n exception exists-the ‘savings
clause'-that allows a federal prisoner to challenge his
conviction and sentence under § 2241 if he can show that
his remedy under § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective,
” it explained that “[t]he savings clause of
§ 2255 does not apply to challenges made to a sentencing
enhancement.” Id. Thus, the Sixth Circuit
concluded that Muir could not attack his sentence in a §
2241 petition. See id.
Muir has filed yet another § 2241 petition with this
Court. [Record No. 1]. Muir relies on a number of cases,
including Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276
(2013), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243
(2016). These Supreme Court decisions that discuss the
approach courts should use to determine whether a prior
conviction constitutes a violent felony for purposes of the
ACCA. Muir argues that, in light of these cases, some of his
pre-2008 convictions no longer constitute violent felonies.
Accordingly, Muir claims that his ACCA enhancement is invalid
and, as a result, he should not have been sentenced to more
than 10 years in prison.
latest § 2241 petition constitutes another impermissible
collateral attack on his sentence. While a federal prisoner
may challenge the legality of his sentence through a direct
appeal and a § 2255 motion, he generally may not do so
in a § 2241 petition. See United States v.
Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining
the distinction between a § 2255 motion and a §
2241 petition). After all, a § 2241 petition is usually
only a vehicle for challenges to actions taken by prison
officials that affect the manner in which the prisoner's
sentence is being carried out, such as computing sentence
credits or determining parole eligibility. See Terrell v.
United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Simply
put, Muir cannot use a § 2241 petition as a way of
challenging his sentence.
nevertheless argues that § 2255(e)'s savings clause
permits him to attack his sentence in a § 2241 petition.
[Record No. 1-1 at 12] But in the Sixth Circuit's
decision denying Muir's last § 2241 petition, it
specifically told Muir that “[t]he savings clause of
§ 2255 does not apply to challenges made to a
sentencing enhancement.” Muir v. Sepanek, No.
14-5515 (6th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added). Still, Muir
suggests that the Sixth Circuit changed this rule last year
in Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016),
and thus he can now challenge his sentence enhancement in a
§ 2241 petition.
Hill, the Sixth Circuit recognized that it had
previously said “that petitioners may not challenge
misapplied sentence enhancements under § 2241.”
Hill, 836 F.3d at 596 n. 4. The court, however,
indicated that a petitioner could now challenge a sentence
enhancement in a § 2241 petition under certain limited
circumstances. See Id. at 595. The court explained:
When seeking to petition under § 2241 based on a
misapplied sentence, the petitioner must show (1) a case of
statutory interpretation, (2) that is retroactive and could
not have been invoked in the initial § 2255 motion, and
(3) that the misapplied sentence presents an error
sufficiently grave to be deemed a miscarriage of justice or a
court then applied this test to Hill, who was claiming that
his Maryland second-degree assault conviction was not a valid
predicate offense for purposes of a career offender
enhancement under the old mandatory sentencing guidelines.
See Id. at 595-99. Ultimately, the court determined
that Hill passed the test. See id. Notably, the
government conceded that the Supreme Court's decision in
Descamps-which discussed the approach courts should
use to determine whether a prior conviction constitutes a
violent felony for purposes of the ACCA-was a case of
statutory interpretation that is new and retroactive and
could not have been invoked in the petitioner's initial
§ 2255 motion. See Id. at 595-96. The
government further conceded that, in light of
Descamps and a Fourth Circuit case, a Maryland
conviction for second-degree assault no longer constituted a
valid predicate offense for purposes of the career-offender
enhancement. Id. Finally, the court determined that
Hill's sentence enhancement constituted a fundamental
error. See Id. at 599. Accordingly, the concluded
that Hill's petition was properly brought under §
2241. Id. at 600.
crux of the Hill decision therefore is that
Descamps is a case of statutory interpretation that
is new and retroactive. Id. at 595-66. But in
Descamps itself, the Supreme Court never wrote that
it was creating a new rule, let alone a retroactive one.
See Descamps, 133 S.Ct. at 2283 (“Our caselaw
explaining the categorical approach and its
‘modified' counterpart all but resolves this
case.”); id. at 2285 (“That is the job,
as we have always understood it, of the modified
approach.”). And, more importantly, the Sixth Circuit
itself previously said in a published decision that
Descamps is actually an old rule. Indeed, in 2014,
the Sixth Circuit specifically stated that “[t]he
Supreme Court in Descamps explained that it was
not announcing a new rule, but was simply
reaffirming [an existing] approach, which some courts had
misconstrued.” United States v. Davis, 751
F.3d 769, 775 (6th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added). Thus, the
Hill decision is contrary to an earlier published
panel decision from the same court, and that earlier decision
remains controlling authority. See Rutherford v. Columbia
Gas, 575 F.3d 616, 619 (6th Cir. 2009) (“A
published prior panel decision remains controlling authority
unless an inconsistent decision of the United States Supreme
Court requires modification of the decision or this Court
sitting en banc overrules the prior decision.”
(quotation marks and citation omitted)). Accordingly,
Muir's reliance on Hill is unavailing.
said, even if Hill was binding on this Court, this
Sixth Circuit made it clear that its decision allowing
prisoners to start challenging sentence enhancements in
§ 2241 petitions was limited to the following, narrow
(1) prisoners who were sentenced under the mandatory
guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker, 543
U.S. 220 . . . (2005), (2) who were foreclosed from filing a
successive petition under § 2255, and (3) when a
subsequent, retroactive change in statutory interpretation by
the Supreme Court reveals that a ...