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7th Circuit affirms man not entitled to habeas relief

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Although a federal judge erroneously held that a savings clause did not apply to a habeas petition filed by an inmate in Terre Haute, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal based on the merits of the petition.  

Augustus Light, who was convicted in Minnesota of one count of firearm possession by a felon in 2003, challenged his sentence enhancement based on the Armed Career Criminal Act. His presentence report outlined several convictions that qualified under the Act to justify enhancing his sentence from a range of 120 to 150 months to 235 to 293 months. When he was sentenced to 235 months, the judge did not specify which three convictions supported finding Light was an armed career criminal.

He filed a direct appeal and challenged the enhancement in a Section 2255 petition in Minnesota. His appeals failed in that state, so he filed a pro se habeas petition under Section 2241 in federal court in Indiana, where he is incarcerated. He relied on the “savings clause” of Section 2255(e) and argued that in light of Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 139, 143 (2008), he was entitled to a sentence reduction because one of his predicate ACCA convictions did not qualify as a “violent felony.”

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed the petition on the grounds that relief under Section 2255 had been available to Light and had not been “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention,” so he did not qualify for the savings clause.

The 7th Circuit, using a test outlined in In Re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Circ. 1998), found that Light did in fact qualify for the savings clause. That case allows for a Section 2241 challenge based on a new statutory interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court as long as three conditions are satisfied.

The District Court never adjudicated Light’s Section 2241 claim on the merits, but the panel’s consideration of the merits in Augustus Light v. John F. Caraway, Warden, 13-1554, led it to conclude that Light is not eligible for relief.

“Through intervening changes in the law, one of his prior predicate offenses for the ACCA enhancement no longer qualifies,” Judge John Tinder wrote, referring to the conviction of vehicular operation. “… but one that was not previously a qualifying predicate offense has become eligible. The net change is zero. Light is still eligible for the ACCA enhancement.”

Light was convicted of felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, which under Sykes v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2267, 2270 (2011), is now considered a violent felony as the term is used by the ACCA.
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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