Harper v. Hanson
Order: The pending petition for habeas relief under § 2241 (Doc. 1 ) is denied and this action is dismissed in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2243. The petitioners motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2 ) is denied as moot in light of his subsequent payment of the filing fee. Additionally, I certify, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge James G. Carr on 2/11/16. (C,D)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Case No. 4:15 CV 2048
Ralph Hanson, Warden,
Pro se petitioner Ron Harper is a federal prisoner incarcerated in the Federal Correctional
Institution in Elkton, Ohio. He was convicted, pursuant to a guilty plea, in the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of Michigan of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100
kilograms of more of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. See United States
v. Harper, 09 CR 20134-2 (E.D. Mich.) He alleges his sentence was enhanced under the Armed
Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. §924(e)(2)(B), based on prior convictions in Michigan.
Petitioner seeks habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 “vacating [his] sentence for
career criminal and for immediate release for time served,” contending his enhanced sentence is
unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, __ U.S.
__, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). (Doc. 1 at 1.) Johnson held that a residual clause contained in a portion
of the ACCA is void for vagueness and that imposing an increased sentence under the residual clause
violates due process.
“A court, justice or judge entertaining an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall
forthwith award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ
should not be granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or person detained
is not entitled thereto.” 28 U.S.C. § 2243. “Under this provision, the District Court has a duty to
screen out a habeas corpus petition which should be dismissed for lack of merit on its face.” Allen
v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970). “No return is necessary when the petition is frivolous,
or obviously lacking in merit, or where . . . the necessary facts can be determined from the petition
itself without need for consideration of a return.” Id.
It is evident from the face of the petition that petitioner is not entitled to relief.
Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 2255 and 2241 provide the statutory scheme for federal prisoners to obtain
habeas relief. See Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Section 2255 is the
primary avenue for relief for prisoners claiming the right to release as a result of an unlawful
sentence, while § 2241 “is appropriate for claims challenging the execution or manner in which the
sentence is served.” United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001). Therefore,
federal prisoners challenging the imposition of their sentence must assert their claim in the
sentencing court under § 2255. See Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999).
Section 2255 contains a limited “savings clause” allowing a prisoner to challenge the legality
of his conviction or sentence under § 2241, but only in the exceptional circumstance where the
remedy afforded under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28
U.S.C. § 2255(e). The remedy afforded under § 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because
relief under § 2255 has been denied, the petitioner is procedurally barred from pursuing § 2255
relief, or the petitioner has been denied permission to file a second or successive § 2255 motion.
Barnes v. United States, 102 Fed. App'x 441, 443 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather, “[t]he savings clause may
only be applied when the petitioner makes a claim of actual innocence” based on a new rule of law
made retroactive by the Supreme Court. See Bannerman v. Snyder, 325 F.3d 722, 724 (6th Cir.
2003); Martin v. Perez, 319 F.3d 799, 804 (6th Cir. 2003). Actual innocence means “factual
innocence” and requires the petitioner to demonstrate “in light of all the evidence, it is more likely
than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him.” Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303,
307-08 (6th Cir. 2012), quoting Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 623-24 (1998).
Petitioner does not contend he is actually innocent of the crime of which he was convicted
and therefore does not assert a claim of actual innocence. The Sixth Circuit has repeatedly instructed
that “claims of sentencing error may not serve as the basis for an actual innocence claim” for
purposes of a pursuing a motion under 28 U.S.C. §2241. See Brown v. Hogsten, 503 Fed. App'x 342,
343 (6th Cir. 2012); Jones v. Castillo, 489 Fed. App'x 864, 866 (6th Cir. 2012) (“Claims alleging
‘actual innocence’ of a sentencing enhancement cannot be raised under § 2241"); Hayes v. Holland,
473 Fed. App'x 501, 502 (6th Cir. 2012) (“[t]he savings clause of section 2255(e) does not apply to
sentencing claims”); Bannerman, 325 F.3d at 724 (“A challenge to a sentence . . . cannot be the basis
for an actual innocence claim . . .”). Accordingly, the petitioner’s challenge to his enhanced sentence
is not cognizable under § 2241.1
Federal courts have indicated that if Johnson provides a petitioner a basis to challenge the
constitutionality of an enhanced sentence under the ACCA, it might be through a petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2255. See, e.g., Tucker v. Snyder-Norris, No. CV 0:15-53-HRW, 2015 WL 5826825, at
*3, n. 1 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 1, 2015). As the Tucker court noted, however, federal courts of appeals have
reached different conclusions as to whether Johnson is retroactively applicable to cases on collateral
review, and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has not yet decided that issue. See id.
Compare Price v. United States, 795 F.3d 731 (7th Cir. 2015) with In re Rivero, 797 F.3d 986 (11th
For the reasons stated above, it is ordered that the pending petition for habeas relief under
§ 2241 (Doc. 1) is denied and this action is dismissed in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2243.
The petitioner’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is denied as moot in light of
his subsequent payment of the filing fee.
Additionally, I certify, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision
could not be taken in good faith.
/s/ James G. Carr
Sr. U.S. District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?