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Rocklyn Hodge v. Copenhaver

October 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


Petitioner is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), Petitioner has consented to the jurisdiction of the United States magistrate judge. Local Rule 305(b).

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on September 4, 2012. Petitioner is currently serving a sentence imposed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Miami, Florida. On June 11, 2001, Petitioner was sentenced to 235 months imprisonment as a career offender under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California, which is within the jurisdiction of this Court.*fn1

Petitioner appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment on February 7, 2003.


A federal prisoner who wishes to challenge the validity or constitutionality of his conviction or sentence must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Tripati v. Henman, 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir. 1988); Thompson v. Smith, 719 F.2d 938, 940 (8th Cir.1983); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997); Broussard v. Lippman, 643 F.2d 1131, 1134 (5th Cir. 1981). In such cases, only the sentencing court has jurisdiction. Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1163. A prisoner may not collaterally attack a federal conviction or sentence by way of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Grady v. United States, 929 F.2d 468, 470 (9th Cir. 1991); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162; see also United States v. Flores, 616 F.2d 840, 842 (5th Cir. 1980).

In contrast, a federal prisoner challenging the manner, location, or conditions of that sentence's execution must bring a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 1998); United States v. Tubwell, 37 F.3d 175, 177 (5th Cir. 1994); Kingsley v. Bureau of Prisons, 937 F.2d 26, 30 n.5 (2nd Cir. 1991);United States v. Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 893-94 (6th Cir. 1991); Barden v. Keohane, 921 F.2d 476, 478-79 (3rd Cir. 1991); United States v. Hutchings, 835 F.2d 185, 186-87 (8th Cir. 1987); Brown v. United States, 610 F.2d 672, 677 (9th Cir. 1990).

In this case, Petitioner is challenging the validity and constitutionality of his sentence rather than an error in the administration of his sentence. Therefore, the appropriate procedure would be to file a motion pursuant to § 2255 and not a habeas petition pursuant to § 2241.

In rare situations, a federal prisoner authorized to seek relief under § 2255 may seek relief under § 2241 if he can show the remedy available under § 2255 to be "inadequate or ineffective to test the validity of his detention." United States v. Pirro, 104 F.3d 297, 299 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting § 2255). Although there is little guidance from any court on when § 2255 is an inadequate or ineffective remedy, the Ninth Circuit has recognized that it is a very narrow exception. Id.; Aronson v. May, 85 S.Ct. 3, 5 (1964) (a court's denial of a prior § 2255 motion is insufficient to render § 2255 inadequate.); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162-63 (9th Cir. 1988) (a petitioner's fears of bias or unequal treatment do not render a § 2255 petition inadequate); Williams v. Heritage, 250 F.2d 390 (9th Cir. 1957); Hildebrandt v. Swope, 229 F.2d 582 (9th Cir. 1956). The burden is on the petitioner to show that the remedy is inadequate or ineffective. Redfield v. United States, 315 F.2d 76, 83 (9th Cir. 1963).

In this case, Petitioner seeks relief pursuant to the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Johnson v. United States, __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 1265 (2010), which held that a Florida battery statute that criminalized intentional striking, touching, and causing of bodily harm to another person was not a "violent felony" for purposes of § 924(e)(2)(B)(i). Johnson, 130 S.Ct. at 1269, 1273-1274. In so holding, the Court interpreted the "physical force" requirement in that statute as "violent force . capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person" and "strong physical force." Id. at 1271. Petitioner contends that he is actually innocent of the § 924(e) enhancement because he was sentenced for a non-existing offense, and could not have received more than ten years under the crime for which he was convicted.

Petitioner concedes that he has previously filed a § 2255 motion and he tried unsuccessfully to file a successive § 2255 motion. (Petition, at 9.) The fact that Petitioner has previously filed a § 2255 motion which was denied does not render such relief inadequate or ineffective. Aronson v. May, 85 S.Ct. at 5. Further, the fact that the Eleventh Circuit denied his request to file a second and successive motion does not render such relief inadequate and/or ineffective.

Moreover, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that his claims qualify under the savings clause of section 2255 because his claims are not proper claims of "actual innocence." In Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614 (1998), the Supreme Court explained that, "[t]o establish actual innocence, petitioner must demonstrate that, in light of all the evidence, it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him." Id. at 623 (internal quotation marks omitted). Petitioner bears the burden of proof on this issue by a preponderance of the evidence, and he must show not just that the evidence against him was weak, but that it was so weak that "no reasonable juror" would have convicted him. Lorentsen v. Hood, 223 F.3d 950, 954 (9th Cir. 2000).

In this case, Petitioner does not assert that he is factually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Rather, he claims that, for sentencing purposes, he does not have the requisite qualifying prior conviction which subjected him to mandatory enhancement. Petitioner's argument fails because it is a purely legal argument. Marrero v. Ives, 682 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2012) (argument that petitioner was incorrectly treated as a career offender, is a purely legal claim that does not demonstrate factual innocence.) Under the savings clause Petitioner must demonstrate that he is factually innocent of the crime for which he has been convicted, not the sentence imposed. See Ivy v. Pontesso, 328 F.3d, 1057 1060 (9th Cir. 2003); Lorentsen, 223 F.3d at 954 (to establish jurisdiction under Section 2241, petitioner must allege that he is "'actually innocent' of the crime of conviction.") Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that Petitioner has not demonstrated Section 2255 constitutes an "inadequate or ineffective" remedy for raising his claims. Accordingly, Section 2241 is not the proper avenue for raising Petitioner's claims, and the petition should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Unless a circuit justice of judge issues a certificate of appealability, an appeal may not be taken to the Court of Appeals from the final order in a proceeding under section 28 U.S.C. § 2255. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(B); Hohn v. United States, 524 U.S. 236, 239-240 (1998). Appeal from a proceeding that is normally undertaken pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, but which is really a successive application under ...

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