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Murphy v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

July 1, 2019




         I. Introduction

         This case has been reassigned to the undersigned Judge.

         Pending before the Court are Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence in Accordance With 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1); the Government's Response (Doc. No. 8); and Petitioner's Reply (Doc. No. 12). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion (Doc. No. 1) is DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED.

         II. Petitioner's Criminal Proceedings

         Petitioner was convicted, after a jury trial held before now-retired Judge William J. Haynes, Jr., of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Doc. Nos. 61, 62 in Case No. 1:04cr00009); United States v. Murphy, 278 Fed.Appx. 278 (6thCir. May 19, 2008). In the Presentence Investigation Report, the Probation Office determined Petitioner qualified for a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence as an Armed Career Criminal based on the following prior Tennessee convictions: two counts of third-degree burglary and one count of arson, all in 1988. (Doc. No. 97 ¶¶ 20, 31 in Case No. 1:04cr00009). At the subsequent sentencing hearing, on July 8, 2005, Judge Haynes agreed that Petitioner was an Armed Career Criminal and his sentencing guideline range was 210 to 262 months of imprisonment. (Doc. Nos. 90, 111 in Case No. 1:04cr00009). Judge Haynes sentenced Petitioner to 210 months of imprisonment. (Doc. Nos. 86, 111 in Case No. 1:04cr00009). On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. (Doc. No. 112 in Case No. 1:04cr00009); Murphy, 278 Fed.Appx. at **5.

         III. Analysis

         A. Section 2255 Proceedings

         Petitioner has brought this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Section 2255 provides a statutory mechanism for challenging the imposition of a federal sentence:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). In order to obtain relief under Section 2255, a petitioner “‘must demonstrate the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.'” Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855, 858 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)).

         If a factual dispute arises in a § 2255 proceeding, the court is to hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve the dispute. Ray v. United States, 721 F.3d 758, 761 (6th Cir. 2013). An evidentiary hearing is not required, however, if the record conclusively shows that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Ray, 721 F.3d at 761; Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999). A hearing is also unnecessary “‘if the petitioner's allegations cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or conclusions rather than statements of fact.'” Monea v. United States, 914 F.3d 414, 422 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 333 (6th Cir. 2007)).

         Having reviewed the record in Petitioner's underlying criminal case, as well as the filings in this case, the Court finds it unnecessary to hold an evidentiary hearing because the records conclusively establish Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the issues raised.

         B. Petitioner's Johnson Claim

         Petitioner argues his sentence should be vacated based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015). In Johnson, the Supreme Court held the so-called “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), to be unconstitutionally vague. The ACCA imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for defendants convicted of certain firearms offenses who have three previous convictions for a “violent felony” or a “serious drug offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The “residual clause” is part of the italicized definition of “violent felony” as set forth below:

(2) As used in this subsection-
(B) the term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by ...

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