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McCormick v. Butler

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

October 20, 2017




         Inmate Kevin J. McCormick has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. # 1). This matter is before the Court to conduct an initial screening of McCormick's petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 F. App'x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). Because McCormick's claim cannot be asserted in a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, the Court will deny the petition.


         On June 9, 2011, McCormick was indicted in this Court for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). United States v. McCormick, 2:11-cr-33-DLB-EBA (Doc. # 1 therein). Shortly thereafter, the prosecution filed a notice that, if convicted, McCormick's sentence was subject to enhancement pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) and that he would be sentenced as an armed career offender pursuant to § 4B1.4 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, in light of four previous violent felony convictions. Id. (Doc. # 15 therein). Specifically, McCormick's criminal history included four separate 1993 convictions in Kentucky state courts for third-degree burglary. Id.

         On November 22, 2011, a jury found McCormick guilty of Count 1 of the Indictment, the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Id. (Doc. # 40 therein). This Court found that the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) enhancement applied as a result of McCormick's prior burglary convictions; thus, McCormick was classified as an armed career criminal pursuant to § 4B1.4 of the Sentencing Guidelines. Id. (Docs. # 69, 71, and 72 therein). The ACCA provides that “in the case of a person who violates section 922(g) of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922(g)(1) of this title for a violent felony…committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall be…imprisoned not less than fifteen years….” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Accordingly on March 28, 2012, McCormick was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 180 months, the statutory minimum under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), to be followed by a 5-year term of supervised release. Id. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed McCormick's conviction and sentence on appeal. Id. (Docs. # 102 and 103 therein).

         In 2014, McCormick filed a Motion to Vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Id. (Doc. # 106 therein). Among other arguments, McCormick sought relief on the grounds that, in light of Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), his state-court third-degree burglary convictions did not qualify as predicate offenses to support an Armed-Career-Criminal enhancement. Id. McCormick later conceded the inapplicability of Descamps in his Reply brief. Id. (Doc. # 118 therein). This Court denied McCormick's § 2255 motion. Id. (Doc. # 123 therein). McCormick appealed the denial of his § 2255 motion, but the Sixth Circuit denied McCormick's application for a certification of appealability.

         McCormick then filed an application with the Sixth Circuit to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, in which he argued that, pursuant to the United States Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), his prior offenses no longer qualify as predicate offenses under the ACCA. The Sixth Circuit denied McCormick's motion, finding that Johnson did not apply to his case. Id. (Doc. # 128 therein). The Court explained:

Prior to sentencing, McCormick objected to the use of his prior convictions for third-degree burglary as predicate offenses under the ACCA. The district court overruled the objections, holding that McCormick's offenses qualified under the enumerated-offenses clause under the “modified categorical approach.” Although the Supreme Court recently held in Mathis v. United States, No. 15-6092, 2016 WL 3434400, at *7-8 (U.S. June 23, 2016), that the “modified categorical approach” should not be used in similar circumstances, McCormick's current motion challenges the validity of his prior convictions in light of Johnson only. Because the district court did not count his prior offenses under the residual clause, McCormick does not have a claim under Johnson.


         McCormick has now filed the instant petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that, in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), his convictions for third-degree Burglary no longer qualify as violent felonies for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act enhancement under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). McCormick invokes the “savings clause” provision of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) to contend that he may assert this claim in a § 2241 petition. However, because McCormick may not bring his Mathis claim in a § 2241 petition, his petition will be denied.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A habeas corpus petition filed pursuant to § 2241 may be used to challenge 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. Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). If a federal prisoner instead wishes to challenge the legality of his federal conviction or sentence, he must do so by filing a motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the court that convicted and sentenced him. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 2003). A habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 may not be used for this purpose because it does not function as an additional or alternative remedy to the one available under § 2255. McCormick v. Lamanna, 16 F. App'x 317, 320 (6th Cir. 2001).

         The “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) creates an extraordinarily narrow exception to this prohibition, when the remedy afforded by § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective” to test the legality of the prisoner's detention. Truss v. Davis, 115 F. App'x 772, 773-74 (6th Cir. 2004). A motion under § 2255 is not “inadequate or ineffective” simply because the prisoner's time to file a § 2255 motion has passed, he did not file a § 2255 motion, or he did file such a motion and was denied relief. Copeland v. Hemingway, 36 F. App'x 793, 795 (6th Cir. 2002); Taylor v. Gilkey, 314 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding that § 2241 is available “only when a structural problem in § 2255 forecloses even one round of effective collateral review ...”). In other words, prisoners cannot use a habeas petition under § 2241 as another “bite of the apple.” McCormick, 16 F. App'x at 319.

         To properly invoke the savings clause, the petitioner must be asserting a claim that he is “actually innocent” of the underlying offense by showing that after the petitioner's conviction became final, the Supreme Court re-interpreted the substantive terms of the criminal statute under which he was convicted in a manner that establishes that his conduct did not violate the statute. Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 307-08 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461-62 (6th Cir. 2001)); Hayes v. Holland, 473 F. App'x 501, 501-02 (6th Cir. 2012) (“To date, the savings clause has only been applied to claims of actual innocence based upon Supreme Court decisions announcing new rules of statutory construction ...

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