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Morris v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

August 31, 2017

JUAN MORRIS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CURTIS L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court are a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed at No. 1:10-CR-133 and a supplemental § 2255 motion[1] filed at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 by Juan Morris (“Petitioner”) which challenge his enhanced sentence as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).[2]

         In light of both Johnson and the recent en banc decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Stitt, 860 F.3d 854 (6th Cir. 2017), it now is undisputed that Petitioner no longer qualifies as an armed career criminal under the ACCA. Accordingly, Petitioner's § 2255 motion [Doc. 12 at No. 1:10-CR-133] and supplemental § 2255 motion [Doc. 202 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3] will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 25, 2009, a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Tennessee returned a multi-count, multi-defendant indictment charging various controlled substance offenses. Petitioner was one of six defendants charged at Count One of that indictment with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) [Doc. 2 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3]. On January 21, 2010, a grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Illinois returned a one-count indictment charging Petitioner with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e) [Doc. 1 pp. 5-6 at No. 1:10-CR-133]. After consenting to a transfer of jurisdiction of the felon-in-possession case from the Southern District of Illinois to the Eastern District of Tennessee [Doc. 1 p. 3 at No. 1:10-CR-133], Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to both count one of the indictment at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and count one of the indictment at No. 1:10-CR-133 on October 6, 2010 [Doc. 151 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and Doc. 2 at No. 1:10-CR-133].

         The presentence investigation report (“PSIR”) identified five previous convictions for a violent felony, committed on occasions different from one another, that qualified Petitioner as an armed career criminal under the ACCA: (1) a November 5, 1997, conviction for aggravated burglary in the Hamilton County, Tennessee, Criminal Court [PSIR ¶ 47]; (2) two convictions[3]on May 22, 2000, for accessory after the fact to aggravated burglary in the Hamilton County, Tennessee, Criminal Court [PSIR ¶ 48]; and (3) two qualifying convictions on January 28, 2003, for robbery in the Hamilton County, Tennessee, Criminal Court [PSIR ¶ 50]. As an armed career criminal, Petitioner was subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to a maximum of life at count one of the indictment at No. 1:10-CR-133[4] and his advisory guideline sentencing range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG”) was 188 to 235 months [PSIR ¶¶ 74, 75].

         On February 24, 2011, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 235 months, consisting of 235 months on each of count one of the indictment at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and count one of the indictment at No. 1:10-CR-133, to be served concurrently, and a term of supervised release of 5 years, consisting of 5 years on each of count one of the indictment at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and count one of the indictment at No. 1:10-CR-133, to run concurrently [Doc. 165 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and Doc. 8 at No. 1:10-CR-133]. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on September 14, 2011 [Doc. 170 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3].

         On June 20, 2016, Petitioner, through court-appointed counsel, filed the pending § 2255 motion at No. 1:10-CR-133 and supplemental § 2255 motion at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 challenging his armed career criminal status based on the Supreme Court's invalidation of the ACCA residual clause in Johnson [Doc. 202 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and Doc. 12 at No. 1:10-CR-133].

         The government's motions to defer ruling on Petitioner's motions pending an en banc decision from the Sixth Circuit in United States v. Stitt, 646 F. App'x 454 (6th Cir. 2016), were granted by the Court on November 29, 2016 [Doc. 217 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3], and March 7, 2017 [Doc. 16 at No. 1:10-CR-133]. On June 27, 2017, the Sixth Circuit issued its en banc decision holding that a conviction of aggravated burglary under Tennessee law does not qualify as a violent felony predicate offense under the ACCA. Stitt, 860 F.3d at 856.

         On July 27, 2017, the parties filed joint status reports agreeing that Petitioner no longer qualifies as an armed career criminal in light of Johnson and Stitt [Doc. 219 at No. 1:09-CR-142-3 and Doc. 17 at No. 1:10-CR-133].

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. TIMELINESS

         Section 2255(f) places a one-year period of limitation on all petitions for collateral relief under § 2255 which runs from the latest of: (1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action; (3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).

         Claims based on the Supreme Court's opinion in Johnson satisfy the third sub-category-- the assertion of a newly recognized right made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Welch, 136 S.Ct. at 1268 (Johnson constitutes a new substantive rule of constitutional law made retroactively applicable on collateral review); In Re Watkins, 810 F.3d at 381-85. The one-year limitation period for filing a motion to vacate based on a right newly recognized by the Supreme Court runs from the date on which the Supreme Court initially recognized the right asserted, not from the date on which the right asserted was made retroactively applicable. Dodd v. United States, 54 ...


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