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Seawood v. Terris

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 30, 2018

J.A. TERRIS, Respondent.



         Federal prisoner Ronald Seawood (“Petitioner”) currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, brings this action under 28 U.S.C.§ 2241. Petitioner was convicted in 1997 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana of conspiracy to commit carjacking, 18 U.S.C. § 371, carjacking, 18 U.S.C. § 2119, and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Petitioner claims that his 327 month sentence was enhanced in violation of Jones v. United States, 526 U.S. 227 (1999), after the court-rather than the jury-determined that he caused serious bodily injury during the carjacking. Because Petitioner fails to demonstrate that his remedy under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective, his petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         Following his trial and conviction, Petitioner filed a direct appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. United States v. Seawood, 172 F.3d 986 (7th Cir. April 7, 1999). The case upon which Petitioner's current claim relies, Jones, was decided on March 24, 1999, just before the Seventh Circuit decided his appeal.

         Petitioner filed a motion to vacate his sentence in the Northern District of Indiana on April 7, 2000, and it was denied on June 14, 2000. United States v. Seawood, N.D. Ind. No. 2:96 CR 91, Dkts. 227 and 231.

         II. Discussion

         In Jones, the Supreme Court held that serious bodily injury is an element of the federal carjacking statute required to be proven and found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and that it was not a mere sentencing enhancement to be determined by the court. 526 U.S. at 239, 242-44. Petitioner contends that his sentence was erroneously enhanced because neither the indictment nor the jury instructions charged him with causing serious bodily injury. As stated, Jones was decided shortly before the Seventh Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction on direct appeal, and therefore Petitioner is not seeking retroactive application of the rule announced in that case.

         Nevertheless, when a federal prisoner wishes to challenge his conviction or the imposition of his sentence in a post-conviction review proceeding, he ordinarily must do so by filing a motion to vacate his sentence under § 2255 in the court of conviction. Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999). A federal prisoner may challenge “the legality of his detention” under § 2241 only “if he falls within the ‘savings clause' of § 2255, ” which requires him to show that the remedy provided by § 2255 “is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 306-07 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)). “[T]he § 2255 remedy is not considered inadequate or ineffective simply because § 2255 relief has already been denied, or because the petitioner is procedurally barred from pursuing relief under § 2255, or because the petitioner has been denied permission to file a second or successive motion to vacate.” Charles, 180 F.3d at 756 (internal citations omitted). That is, “[t]he remedy afforded under § 2241 is not an additional, alternative or supplemental remedy to that prescribed under § 2255.” Id. at 758.

         Where, as here, the target of a § 2241 petition is a sentence enhancement, a three-part test is used to determine whether the petition comes within the savings clause of § 2255(e):

[T]he 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.

Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2016).

         Petitioner fails to demonstrate entitlement to review under the savings clause of § 2255(e) because he could have raised his Jones claim in his initial § 2255 motion. Jones was decided on March 24, 1999. Petitioner filed his § 2255 motion about a year later, on April 7, 2000. While Petitioner asserts in his reply brief that his appellate attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to raise his Jones claim in a supplemental pleading in the Seventh Circuit before his direct appeal was decided, Petitioner has not alleged any reason why he subsequently failed to raise his claim in his § 2255 proceeding. Counsel's alleged ineffectiveness during Petitioner's direct appeal simply does not speak to Petitioner's own failure to raise his claim on post-conviction review. Accordingly, Petitioner has not shown that his remedy under § 2255 was inadequate or ineffective, and he therefore may not proceed in this Court under § 2241. The petition will therefore be denied.

         III. Conclusion

         The Court DENIES the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Finally, the Court notes that a Certificate of Appealability is not needed to appeal the dismissal of a habeas petition filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Witham v. United States, 355 F.3d 501, 504 (6th Cir. 2004). Petitioner need not ...

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