Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vassell v. O'Brien

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

March 19, 2018

TADD ERROL VASSELL, Petitioner,
v.
TERRY O'BRIEN, Warden, U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS

          FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Procedural History

         The petitioner, Tadd Errol Vassell, by counsel, filed a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (“§ 2241”). The action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi for initial review and report and recommendation pursuant to Local Rule of Prisoner Litigation Procedure 2. The respondent filed a motion to dismiss the § 2241 petition. The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation recommending that the respondent's motion to dismiss be granted and that the § 2241 petition be denied and dismissed without prejudice. The magistrate judge informed the parties that if they objected to any portion of the report and recommendation, they were required to file written objections within 14 days after being served with copies of the report. The petitioner timely filed objections.

         II. Facts

         The petitioner contends that his mandatory life without parole sentence is unconstitutional and void ab initio because it was imposed for a conspiracy that he entered into as a juvenile. The petitioner relies on the following cases: Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), and Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). The petitioner recognizes that current precedent precludes him from obtaining relief under § 2241, but contends that he is entitled to relief under § 2241 because § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to test his detention. The petitioner also suggests that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit may expand the availability of § 2241 relief via the savings clause in United States v. Surratt, 797 F.3d 240 (4th Cir. 2015). The petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus stating that he is entitled to relief from his unconstitutional sentence.

         The respondent filed a motion to dismiss the § 2241 petition. First, the respondent argues that the petition must be dismissed because it cannot be properly treated as a valid, successive § 2255 motion. Second, the respondent argues that, before the petitioner can litigate his challenge to his sentence under § 2241, he must satisfy § 2255(e) by establishing that § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention. The respondent contends that the petitioner cannot satisfy § 2255(e). Third, the respondent argues that enforcing the statute of limitations under § 2255(f) does not constitute an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Fourth, the respondent argue that, even if the petitioner could satisfy the gatekeeping requirements of § 2255, his claim would still fail on the merits because: (1) Graham and Miller adopted a bright-line rule that does not apply to defendants with adult criminal liability; (2) a host of doctrines that control conspiracy law all support the finding that the petitioner is not entitled to relief under Graham and Miller; (3) courts of appeals, including the Fourth Circuit, have uniformly held that a defendant with adult criminal liability may have his sentence increased, even up to life, based on that defendant's prior juvenile convictions; and (4) the only federal court of appeals to decide a Miller challenge to a sentence for conduct that began when the defendant was a juvenile and continued into adulthood, has found Miller inapplicable.

         The petitioner filed a response in opposition to the respondent's motion to dismiss. In response, the petitioner argues that, while current precedent precludes him from relief under § 2255's savings clause, he has also presented “alternative paths to habeas relief” based on the constitutional mandate described in Montgomery and an extension of the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception. Alternatively, the petitioner asks that his § 2241 petition be treated as a successive § 2255 motion and be transferred to the sentencing court.

         In his objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the petitioner first argues that the magistrate judge erred by failing to apply the savings clause to the petitioner's sentence. Second, the petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred in concluding that the petitioner cannot obtain relief under Graham, Montgomery, or Miller. Third, the petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred by ignoring the Supreme Court's holding in Montgomery that post-conviction courts are constitutionally obligated to provide relief from a void and unconstitutional sentence. Fourth, the petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred by failing to recommend an extension of the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception. Lastly, the petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred in recommending denial of the petitioner's alternative request to treat his § 2241 petition as a successive § 2255 motion.

         For the reasons that follow, this Court finds that the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge should be adopted in its entirety.

         III. Applicable Law

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's recommendation to which an objection is timely made. Because the petitioner filed objections to the report and recommendation, the magistrate judge's recommendation will be reviewed de novo as to those findings to which the petitioner objected. As to those findings to which objections were not filed, all findings and recommendations will be upheld unless they are “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Because the petitioner filed objections to the report and recommendation, the magistrate judge's recommendation will be reviewed de novo.

         IV. Discussion

         A prisoner may file a motion under § 2255 to collaterally attack the legality of his conviction or sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). But generally, a prisoner may file a petition under § 2241 to challenge only the manner in which a sentence is executed. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c). A prisoner may use § 2241 to collaterally attack the legality of his conviction or sentence only if the remedy under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective.” In re Jones, 226 F.3d 328, 332 (4th Cir. 2000); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

         Section 2255 is not inadequate merely because the prisoner has been unable to obtain relief under § 2255. In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 n.5 (4th Cir. 1997). Nor is ยง 2255 rendered inadequate because of a limitation bar, the prohibition against successive petitions, or a procedural bar due to failure to raise the issue on direct appeal. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.