United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Duane Griffin is a federal prisoner who was recently confined
at the United States Penitentiary - Big Sandy in Inez,
Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer, Griffin has filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241. [R. 1, 4]. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will deny Griffin's petition.
2012, Griffin was convicted of being a felon possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The maximum
sentence for this offense is usually 10 years in prison.
See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, the United
States District Court for the District of Minnesota
determined that Griffin had at least three previous
convictions for either a violent felony or a serious drug
offense that were committed on occasions different from one
another. As a result, Griffin 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).
Ultimately, the district court sentenced Griffin to 240
months in prison. See United States v. Bryant
Griffin, No. 0:12-cr-123 (D. Minn. 2013).
challenged his sentence on direct appeal, but the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed his
sentence. See Id. at R. 89. Griffin then filed a
motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255, and he argued, among other things, that the ACCA
enhancement under § 924(e) did not apply to him. See
Id. at R. 98. In response, the Government conceded that
one of Griffin's prior convictions did not qualify as a
predicate offense under the ACCA. See Id. at R. 101
at 6. Nevertheless, the Government argued that Griffin had
three other prior convictions that did qualify as valid
predicate offenses. See Id. at R. 101 at 6-7. The
district court agreed with the Government, concluded that
Griffin's sentence was properly enhanced, and denied his
§ 2255 motion. See Id. at R. 102 at 2-3. It
does not appear that Griffin appealed that decision; instead,
he later asked the Eighth Circuit to allow him to file a
second or successive § 2255 motion, and the court denied
that request. See Bryant Griffin v. United States,
No. 16-2169 (8th Cir. 2016).
has now filed a § 2241 petition with this Court, and he
again argues that he did not have enough predicate offenses
to qualify for an enhanced sentence under the ACCA. [R. 1].
Specifically, Griffin claims that some of his prior
“drug convictions no longer qualify as . . . serious
drug offenses pursuant to . . . § 924(e).” [R. 1-1
at 1]. Thus, Griffin asks the Court to “vacate [the]
Armed Career Criminal enhancement” and order that he be
resentenced. [R. 1 at 8].
§ 2241 petition, however, constitutes an 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, Griffin 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.
[R. 1]. Although the Sixth Circuit has historically said that
the opposite is true, see, e.g., Jones v. Castillo,
489 F. App'x 864, 866 (6th Cir. 2012), Griffin suggests
that the Sixth Circuit changed this rule last year in
Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), and
now allows petitioners to attack their sentence enhancements
under § 2241.
Hill, the Sixth Circuit recognized that it had
previously said, on numerous occasions, that petitioners may
not challenge their sentence enhancements under
§ 2241. Hill, 836 F.3d at 596 n.4 (citing
multiple cases). The court, however, indicated that an
individual could now challenge his sentence enhancement in a
§ 2241 petition under certain, very 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. The court determined that Hill
passed the test. See id. Notably, the Government
conceded that the Supreme Court's decision in
Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276
(2013)-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 was 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. The
Sixth Circuit accepted these concessions and then determined
that Hill's sentence enhancement constituted a
fundamental error. See Id. at 599. Thus, the court
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
basis for the Sixth Circuit's decision in
Hill-that Descamps is a case of statutory
interpretation that is new and retroactive- is contrary to an
earlier published panel decision from the same court. Under
the law, the Sixth Circuit's earlier decision remains
binding on this Court. 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,
Griffin's reliance on Hill and Descamps
said, even if Griffin could satisfy Hill 's
three-part test set forth above, the Sixth Circuit made it
clear that its decision only applies to “prisoners who
were sentenced under the mandatory guidelines regime
pre-United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 . . .
(2005).” Hill, 836 F.3d at 599-600. Since the
district court sentenced Griffin in 2013, well after the
Supreme Court decided Booker, his petition clearly
falls outside of Hill 's narrow
confines. As a result, Griffin cannot take advantage of
§ 2255(e)'s savings clause.
it is hereby O ...