Griffin v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: 1. Griffin's petition for a writ of habeas corpus (R. 1 , 4 ) is DENIED. 2. This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from Court's docket. 3. A corresponding judgment will be entered this date. Signed by Judge Karen K. Caldwell on 8/30/2017. (TDA) cc: Griffin via US Mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
SOUTHERN DIVISION at PIKEVILLE
BRYANT DUANE GRIFFIN,
Civil Action No. 7:16-278-KKC
GREGORY KIZZIAH, Warden,
*** *** *** ***
Bryant Duane Griffin is a federal prisoner who was recently confined at the United States
Penitentiary – Big Sandy in Inez, Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer, Griffin has filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [R. 1, 4]. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court will deny Griffin’s petition.
In 2012, Griffin was convicted of being a felon possession of a firearm in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g). The maximum sentence for this offense is usually 10 years in prison. See 18
U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). However, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota
determined that Griffin had at least three previous convictions for either a violent felony or a
serious drug offense that were committed on occasions different from one another. As a result,
Griffin was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison pursuant to the Armed
Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Ultimately, the district court sentenced Griffin
to 240 months in prison. See United States v. Bryant Griffin, No. 0:12-cr-123 (D. Minn. 2013).
Griffin challenged his sentence on direct appeal, but the United States Court of Appeals
for the Eighth Circuit affirmed his sentence. See id. at R. 89. Griffin then filed a motion to vacate
his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and he argued, among other things, that the ACCA
enhancement under § 924(e) did not apply to him. See id. at R. 98. In response, the Government
conceded that one of Griffin’s prior convictions did not qualify as a predicate offense under the
ACCA. See id. at R. 101 at 6. Nevertheless, the Government argued that Griffin had three other
prior convictions that did qualify as valid predicate offenses. See id. at R. 101 at 6-7. The district
court agreed with the Government, concluded that Griffin’s sentence was properly enhanced, and
denied his § 2255 motion. See id. at R. 102 at 2-3. It does not appear that Griffin appealed that
decision; instead, he later asked the Eighth Circuit to allow him to file a second or successive §
2255 motion, and the court denied that request. See Bryant Griffin v. United States, No. 16-2169
(8th Cir. 2016).
Griffin has now filed a § 2241 petition with this Court, and he again argues that he did not
have enough predicate offenses to qualify for an enhanced sentence under the ACCA. [R. 1].
Specifically, Griffin claims that some of his prior “drug convictions no longer qualify as . . . serious
drug offenses pursuant to . . . § 924(e).” [R. 1-1 at 1]. Thus, Griffin asks the Court to “vacate
[the] Armed Career Criminal enhancement” and order that he be resentenced. [R. 1 at 8].
Griffin’s § 2241 petition, however, constitutes an impermissible collateral attack on his
sentence. While a federal prisoner may challenge the legality of his sentence through a direct
appeal and a § 2255 motion, he generally may not do so in a § 2241 petition. See United States v.
Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining the distinction between a § 2255 motion
and a § 2241 petition). After all, a § 2241 petition is usually only a vehicle for challenges to actions
taken by prison officials that affect the manner in which the prisoner’s sentence is being carried
out, such as computing sentence credits or determining parole eligibility. See Terrell v. United
States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Simply put, Griffin cannot use a § 2241 petition as a
way of challenging his sentence.
Griffin nevertheless argues that § 2255(e)’s savings clause permits him to attack his
sentence in a § 2241 petition. [R. 1]. Although the Sixth Circuit has historically said that the
opposite is true, see, e.g., Jones v. Castillo, 489 F. App’x 864, 866 (6th Cir. 2012), Griffin suggests
that the Sixth Circuit changed this rule last year in Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016),
and now allows petitioners to attack their sentence enhancements under § 2241.
In Hill, the Sixth Circuit recognized that it had previously said, on numerous occasions,
that petitioners may not challenge their sentence enhancements under § 2241. Hill, 836 F.3d at
596 n. 4 (citing multiple cases). The court, however, indicated that an individual could now
challenge his sentence enhancement in a § 2241 petition under certain, very limited circumstances.
See id. at 595. The court explained:
When seeking to petition under § 2241 based on a misapplied sentence, the
petitioner must show (1) a case of statutory interpretation, (2) that is retroactive and
could not have been invoked in the initial § 2255 motion, and (3) that the misapplied
sentence presents an error sufficiently grave to be deemed a miscarriage of justice
or a fundamental defect.
The court then applied this test to Hill, who was claiming that his Maryland second-degree
assault conviction was not a valid predicate offense for purposes of a career offender enhancement
under the old mandatory sentencing guidelines. See id. at 595-99. The court determined that Hill
passed the test. See id. Notably, the Government conceded that the Supreme Court’s decision in
Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013)—which discussed the approach courts should
use to determine whether a prior conviction constitutes a violent felony for purposes of the
ACCA—was a case of statutory interpretation that was new and retroactive and could not have
been invoked in the petitioner’s initial § 2255 motion. See id. at 595-96. The Government further
conceded that, in light of Descamps and a Fourth Circuit case, a Maryland conviction for second3
degree assault no longer constituted a valid predicate offense for purposes of the career-offender
enhancement. Id. The Sixth Circuit accepted these concessions and then determined that Hill’s
sentence enhancement constituted a fundamental error. See id. at 599. Thus, the court concluded
that Hill’s petition was properly brought under § 2241. Id. at 600.
The crux of the Hill decision therefore is that Descamps is a case of statutory interpretation
that is new and retroactive. Id. at 595-66. But in Descamps itself, the Supreme Court never wrote
that it was creating a new rule, let alone a retroactive one. See Descamps, 133 S. Ct. at 2283 (“Our
caselaw explaining the categorical approach and its ‘modified’ counterpart all but resolves this
case.”); id. at 2285 (“That is the job, as we have always understood it, of the modified approach.”).
And, more importantly, the Sixth Circuit itself previously said in a published decision that
Descamps is actually an old rule. Indeed, in 2014, the Sixth Circuit specifically stated that “[t]he
Supreme Court in Descamps explained that it was not announcing a new rule, but was simply
reaffirming [an existing] approach, which some courts had misconstrued.” United States v. Davis,
751 F.3d 769, 775 (6th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added). Thus, the basis for the Sixth Circuit’s
decision in Hill—that Descamps is a case of statutory interpretation that is new and retroactive—
is contrary to an earlier published panel decision from the same court. Under the law, the Sixth
Circuit’s earlier decision remains binding on this Court. See Rutherford v. Columbia Gas, 575
F.3d 616, 619 (6th Cir. 2009) (“A published prior panel decision remains controlling authority
unless an inconsistent decision of the United States Supreme Court requires modification of the
decision or this Court sitting en banc overrules the prior decision.” (quotation marks and citation
omitted)). Accordingly, Griffin’s reliance on Hill and Descamps is unavailing.1
Griffin also does not satisfy Hill’s three-part test by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Mathis v. United
States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). That is because Mathis did not create a new rule of law which applies retroactively to
cases on collateral review. After all, the Supreme Court gave no indication in Mathis that it was announcing a new
That said, even if Griffin could satisfy Hill’s three-part test set forth above, the Sixth Circuit
made it clear that its decision only applies to “prisoners who were sentenced under the mandatory
guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 . . . (2005).” Hill, 836 F.3d at 599600. Since the district court sentenced Griffin in 2013, well after the Supreme Court decided
Booker, his petition clearly falls outside of Hill’s narrow confines. As a result, Griffin cannot take
advantage of § 2255(e)’s savings clause.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. Griffin’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus [R. 1, 4] is DENIED.
2. This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.
3. A corresponding judgment will be entered this date.
Dated August 30, 2017.
rule, let alone intended for that rule to be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. If anything, the Court
indicated that the opposite was true, saying that it’s “precedents make this a straightforward case” and adding that the
result was dictated by “more than 25 years” of Supreme Court case law. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at 2257.
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