Thousands of prisoners are serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes. Gleeson, who is neither naive nor sentimental (as a prosecutor, he sent mobster John Gotti to die in a supermax prison), knows that most defendants who plead guilty are guilty. He is, however, dismayed at the use of the threat of mandatory minimums as “sledgehammers” to extort guilty pleas, effectively vitiating the right to a trial. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions are without trials, sparing the government the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Mere probable cause, and the meager presentation required for a grand jury indictment, suffices. “Judging is removed,” Gleeson says, “prosecutors become sentencers.” And when threats of draconian sentences compel guilty pleas, “some innocent people will plead guilty.”
Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are questioning the regime of mandatory minimum sentences, including recidivism enhancements, that began with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Meanwhile, the human and financial costs of mass incarceration mount.
2. The 11th Circuit came out with a big Christmas present for Dudley Bryant -- a habeas win on a Begay/savings clause issue:
Petitioner Dudley Bryant appeals the district court’s dismissal of his 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas petition, brought pursuant to the “savings clause” in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Bryant’s appeal presents the issue to which this Court alluded in Wofford v. Scott, 177 F.3d 1236 (11th Cir. 1999), and subsequently left undecided in Gilbert v. United States (Gilbert II), 640 F.3d 1293 (11th Cir. 2011) (en banc), cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 1001 (2012), and Williams v. Warden, 713 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2013). The issue is whether the savings clause in § 2255(e) permits a federal prisoner to bring a § 2241 petition when he has established that his current 235-month sentence for an 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) conviction exceeds the 10-year statutory maximum penalty authorized by Congress under 18 U.S.C. § 924(a).
When a conviction has become final, a federal prisoner usually may challenge the legality of his detention only through a § 2255 motion. However, the savings clause in § 2255(e) permits the prisoner to file a § 2241 habeas petition when a § 2255 motion was “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). After review of the record, the briefs of the parties and the amicus, and having the benefit of oral argument, we conclude Bryant has satisfied the savings clause’s requirements in § 2255(e).
Bryant has proven that his prior § 2255 motion was “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention” and that his § 2241 petition can now proceed under § 2255(e) because: (1) from the time of his initial sentencing in 2002 throughout his first § 2255 proceeding in 2005, our Circuit’s binding precedent in United States v. Hall, 77 F.3d 398, 401-02 (11th Cir. 1996), held that a concealed-firearm offense under Fla. Stat. § 790.01 was a “violent felony” under § 924(e) and squarely foreclosed Bryant’s claim that he was erroneously sentenced above the 10-year statutory maximum penalty in § 924(a); (2) subsequent to Bryant’s first § 2255 proceeding, the Supreme Court’s decision in Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 128 S. Ct. 1581 (2008), set forth a new standard to evaluate which crimes constitute violent felonies under § 924(e), and Begay, as interpreted by United States v. Archer, 531 F.3d 1347, 1352 (11th Cir. 2008), and United States v. Canty, 570 F.3d 1251, 1255 (11th Cir. 2009), overturned our Circuit precedent in Hall; (3) Begay’s new rule is substantive and applies retroactively to Bryant’s § 924(e) claim on collateral review; (4) as a result of pure § 924(e)-Begay error and retroactive application of Begay, Bryant’s 235-month sentence exceeds the 10-year statutory maximum authorized by Congress in § 924(a); and (5) the savings clause in § 2255(e) reaches his claim of illegal detention above the statutory maximum penalty. Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s dismissal of Bryant’s § 2241 petition and remand with instructions set forth herein.
We first review the procedural history of Bryant’s case, the savings clause in § 2255(e), and our Circuit’s prior rulings about § 2255(e). We then summarize the five specific requirements a § 2241 petitioner must satisfy to proceed under § 2255(e) and explain why Bryant has satisfied them.
3. President Obama's six (!) nominees are ready for confirmation. Georgia Democrats are not happy about the lack of diversity and the deal cut with Republicans, but it looks like that ship has sailed. From the Daily Report:
President Barack Obama's six federal judicial nominees in Georgia appear poised for Senate consideration after years of delay in filling seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
The White House announced late Thursday that Obama had selected Northern District Chief Judge Julie Carnes for the Eleventh Circuit. The president also tapped four lawyers and judges to fill spaces on the Northern District, including one to replace Carnes, a 1992 appointee of President George H.W. Bush.
Those five nominees join Jill Pryor, a partner at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore who was nominated by Obama for the Eleventh Circuit nearly two years ago. She was blocked by Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, but they appear to back all six nominees now.
The district court nominees are Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Mark Cohen of Troutman Sanders, Leigh Martin May of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, and Judge Eleanor Ross, a DeKalb County State Court judge.