Medrano v. USA
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court denies a certificate of appealability and dismisses this Section 2255 action as barred by limitations. (Ordered by Judge Reed C. O'Connor on 8/3/2017) (axm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
(No. 3:04-cr-205-O (18))
OPINION AND ORDER
Movant Esequiel Medrano, a federal prisoner, has filed a pro se motion to vacate,
set aside, or correct his federal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Dkt. No. 1.
Medrano’s motion, filed no later than June 15, 2016, see id. at 12, is only timely to the
extent that Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. ____, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), applies to
his Section 2255 claims, which are based on the advisory sentencing guidelines, see
Dkt. No. 1 at 4 (asserting that his “constitutional rights have been violated pursuant
to a vague statute in violation of due process” and that the language of the sentencing
“enhancement [he] received ... is identical to the ACCA residual clause”); see also 28
U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3).
After the Court ordered the government to respond to the Section 2255 motion,
see Dkt No. 3, this action was stayed and administratively closed pending the decision
of Supreme Court of the United States in Beckles v. United States, 580 U.S. ____, 137
S. Ct. 886 (2017), see Dkt. Nos. 4 & 5. After the decision in Beckles, the Court reopened
this action and ordered Medrano to show cause in writing why it should not be
dismissed as time-barred. See Dkt. No. 10; see also Wyatt v. Thaler, 395 F. App’x 113,
114 (5th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (“‘before acting on its own initiative’ to dismiss an
apparently untimely [Section 2255 motion] as time barred, a district court ‘must accord
the parties fair notice and an opportunity to present their positions’” (quoting Day v.
McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 210 (2006); alteration to original)); Sosa-Saucedo v. United
States, No. 6:09cv491, 2011 WL 336456 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 31, 2011) (applying Day to
Section 2255 motions).
No response was filed, and the deadline by which to do so has passed.
The Court now concludes that this action should be dismissed as time-barred.
Applicable Background, Legal Standards, and Analysis
In Johnson, the Supreme Court held “that imposing an increased sentence under
the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act” (the “ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. §
924(e)(2)(B)(ii) – which clause defines a “violent felony” as “involv[ing] conduct that
presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” – “violates the
Constitution’s guarantee of due process,” 135 S. Ct. at 2563; see also id. (“Today’s
decision does not call into question application of the Act to the four enumerated
offenses, or the remainder of the Act’s definition of a violent felony.”).
Because “Johnson affected the reach of the underlying statute[, the ACCA,]
rather than the judicial procedures by which the statute is applied,” Johnson is “a
substantive decision and so has retroactive effect under Teague[ v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288
(1989),] in cases on collateral review.” Welch v. United States, 578 U.S. ____, 136 S. Ct.
1257, 1265 (2016).
But Medrano did not receive an increased sentence under the ACCA’s residual
clause. Instead, any increase in his sentence was due to the Guidelines. And the
Supreme Court has now determined that, “[u]nlike the ACCA, ... the advisory
Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences. To the contrary, they merely
guide the exercise of a court’s discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the
statutory range. Accordingly, the Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge
under the Due Process Clause.” Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 892.
Because Johnson is not applicable, Medrano’s Section 2255 motion is untimely
for the following reasons.
Section 2255 proceedings are governed by a one-year statute of limitations. See
ANTITERRORISM AND EFFECTIVE DEATH PENALTY ACT OF 1996, Pub.L. 104-132, 110 Stat.
1214 (1996) (the “AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). The statute provides that
the limitations period shall run from the latest of –
the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by
governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United
States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by
such governmental action;
the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the
Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme
Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims
presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due
The one-year limitations period is also subject to equitable tolling in “rare and
exceptional circumstances.” See, e.g., United States v. Riggs, 314 F.3d 796, 800 n.9 (5th
Cir. 2002) (citing Davis v. Johnson, 158 F.3d 806, 811 (5th Cir. 1998)).
“Equitable tolling applies principally where the plaintiff is actively
misled by the defendant about the cause of action or is prevented in some
extraordinary way from asserting his rights.” Coleman v. Johnson, 184
F.3d 398, 402 (5th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). “[T]he principles of equitable tolling ... do not extend to what is
at best a garden variety claim of excusable neglect.” Irwin v. Department
of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990). Unfamiliarity with the legal
process does not justify equitable tolling. Turner v. Johnson, 177 F.3d
390, 392 (5th Cir. 1999).
United States v. Kirkham, 367 F. App’x 539, 541 (5th Cir. 2010) (per curiam).
But “a litigant is entitled to equitable tolling of a statute of limitations only if
the litigant establishes two elements: ‘(1) that he has been pursuing his rights
diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and
prevented timely filing.’” Menominee Indian Tribe of Wis. v. United States, 136 S. Ct.
750, 755 (2016) (quoting Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010)). The Supreme
Court has reaffirmed “that the second prong of the equitable tolling test is met only
where the circumstances that caused a litigant’s delay are both extraordinary and
beyond its control.” Id. at 756 (emphasis in original).
The Supreme Court also has determined that the AEDPA statute of limitations
can be overcome by a showing of “actual innocence.” See McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.
Ct. 1924, 1928 (2013). But the actual innocence gateway is only available to a
petitioner who presents “‘evidence of innocence so strong that a court cannot have
confidence in the outcome of the trial unless the court is also satisfied that the trial
was free of nonharmless constitutional error.’” Id. at 1936 (quoting Schlup v. Delo, 513
U.S. 298, 316 (1995)). That is, the new, reliable evidence must be sufficient to persuade
the Court that “‘no juror, acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt.’” Id. at 1928 (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 329); see also Johnson
v. Hargett, 978 F.2d 855, 859-60 (5th Cir. 1992) (“The Supreme Court has made clear
that the term ‘actual innocence’ means factual, as opposed to legal, innocence – ‘legal’
innocence, of course, would arise whenever a constitutional violation by itself requires
reversal, whereas ‘actual’ innocence, as the Court stated in McCleskey [v. Zant, 499
U.S. 467 (1991)], means that the person did not commit the crime.” (footnotes omitted;
emphasis in original)).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed Medrano’s
direct appeal on April 10, 2008. His criminal judgment became final 90 days later, on
July 9, 2008, when the time for petitioning the Supreme Court for review on certiorari
expired. See SUP. CT. R. 13; United States v. Wheaten, 826 F.3d 843, 846 (5th Cir. 2016)
(“Although [the AEDPA] does not define when a conviction ‘becomes final’ for purposes
of federal habeas review of a federal conviction, the Supreme Court stated in Clay v.
United States that ‘[f]inality attaches when [the Supreme] Court affirms a conviction
on the merits on direct review or denies a petition for a writ of certiorari, or when the
time for filing a certiorari petition expires.’” (quoting 537 U.S. 522, 527 (2003))).
Because the current motion was not filed within one year from July 9, 2008 –
and because Medrano has not shown that the one-year deadline should be extended
based on either equitable tolling or the narrow actual-innocence exception – this action
Upon review of the motion to vacate and the files and records of this case, an
evidentiary hearing appears unnecessary. No evidentiary hearing is required if “the
motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is
entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). In this instance, the matters reviewed by the
Court conclusively show that Medrano is entitled to no relief.
Certificate of Appealability
Considering the record in this case and pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate
Procedure 22(b), Rule 11(a) of the Rules Governing §§ 2254 and 2255 proceedings, and
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), the Court denies a certificate of appealability. Medrano has failed
to show (1) that reasonable jurists would find this Court’s “assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong,” or (2) that reasonable jurists would find “it
debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional
right” and “debatable whether [this Court] was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack
v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 48 (2000).
In the event Medrano elects to file a notice of appeal, the Court notes that he
will need to pay the appellate filing fee or submit a motion to proceed in forma
The Court dismisses this Section 2255 action as barred by limitations.
DATED: August 3, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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