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Davis v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 25, 2017

WILLIAM M. DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Petitioner William M. Davis (“Davis”) to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), Davis is no longer subject to an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). Respondent United States of America (“Government”) opposes the motion, arguing that Johnson does not entitle Davis to relief. For the reasons that follow, I will grant Davis' motion.

         I. Background

         On December 16, 2008, Davis was sentenced to 180 months of imprisonment as an armed career criminal under 18 U.S.C. §924(e)(1), following his plea of guilty to the offense of Felon in Possession of a Firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). [Crim. Doc. 34, 35]. The following three predicate convictions for ACCA purposes were identified in Davis' Presentence Report (“PSR”) at the time of sentencing:

(i) Tennessee burglary first degree, June 8, 1981, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, in case number 9064;
(ii) Florida burglary of a structure, July 24, 1989, in Volusia County, Florida, in case number 88-09681CFAES; and
(iii) Florida burglary of a dwelling, July 24, 1989, in Volusia County, Florida, in case number 89-01691CFAES.

         In 2008, Davis appealed the judgment of conviction, challenging the classification of his Florida burglary of a structure conviction as a “violent felony” under the ACCA and the length of his sentence. See United States v. William Davis, No. 09-1080. The Eighth Circuit denied Davis' appeal, and Davis did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari. See United States v. Davis, 352 Fed.Appx. 130 (8th Cir. 2009) (confirming that 1989 Florida burglary qualified as a violent felony). On January 11, 2011, Davis filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. §2255 which challenged the classification of his 1989 burglary as a “violent felony” and his prior drug-related convictions as “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA. See William Davis v. United States, 1:11CV4 RWS; 12014 WL 1213462 (2014). The Court denied this petition and did not issue a certificate of appealability. On June 30, 2014, Davis filed a second 28 U.S.C. §2255 petition, without seeking prior permission from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. See William Davis v. United States, 1:14CV98 RWS. The Court denied this petition as successive without permission.

         On April 5, 2016, Davis filed an application with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for permission to file a successive 28 U.S.C. §2255 petition. See William Davis v. United States, No. 16-1810. The Eighth Circuit granted Davis permission to file a successive habeas corpus petition on June 23, 2016. In his motion, Davis argues that his two prior convictions for Florida burglary no longer qualify as predicate “violent felony” offenses under Johnson, so he no longer has the requisite three qualifying prior convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).

         Davis and the Government agree that Davis' 1981 Tennessee conviction for burglary first degree remains a violent felony and a predicate offense under the ACCA's enumerated offense clause following Johnson, because the elements of the applicable Tennessee statute satisfy the requirements of generic burglary under federal law.

         II. Legal Standard

         A district court may vacate, set aside, or correct a federal sentence if “the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Davis bears the burden to show he is entitled to relief. Day v. United States, 428 F.2d 1193, 1195 (8th Cir. 1970). In a case involving an ACCA conviction such as this one, “the movant carries the burden of showing that the Government did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his conviction fell under the ACCA.” Hardman v. United States, 149 F.Supp.3d 1144, 1148 (W.D. Mo. 2016); see also Hardman v. United States, 191 F.Supp.3d 989, 992-93 (W.D. Mo. 2016) (denying government's motion for reconsideration on the issue of the burden of proof).

         III. Analysis

         Davis asserts that the two Florida burglary convictions counted as predicate offenses in ACCA sentencing no longer qualify as violent felonies following Johnson and related cases. The Government contends that Davis' claims are not cognizable in a successive Section 2255 habeas action because they are not based on a new rule of constitutional law. For the reasons that follow, Davis' claims are reviewable under the Johnson decision and the Florida burglary predicate convictions no longer qualify as violent felonies given the scope of the Florida ...


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