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June 3, 2010

Defendant experiences another reversal of ACCA fortunes via Fourth Circuit's reversal

The Fourth Circuit has an interesting ruling today in US v. Pettiford, No. 09-4119 (4th Cir. June 3, 2010) (available here), which reverses a district court's decision to reduce an ACCA sentence by granting relief in a 2255 action.  Here is how the panel ruling in Pettiford gets started:

Appellee Antoine Jerome Pettiford pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and received an enhanced sentence of 188 months’ imprisonment, in part because he had five prior convictions which qualified him as a career criminal under the provisions of the Armed Career Criminal Act (the "ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).   Two of the five state court convictions were subsequently vacated, and Pettiford brought a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for post-conviction relief from the enhanced federal sentence.  The district court granted Pettiford’s petition, holding that as a result of the vacatur of the two state convictions, Pettiford was entitled to relief.  The district court then resentenced Pettiford to a term of 100 months’ imprisonment. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the district court’s order and remand with instructions to reinstate Pettiford’s original sentence.

June 3, 2010 at 02:42 PM | Permalink


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This is some proceduralist BS. The facts were not as they originally appeared. The sentencing judge believed that a different sentence was required based upon the true facts. He corrected the problem. The Fourth Circuit goes down the rabbit hole of indeterminate criminal procedure rules and interprets them to avoid the reasonable result and keep a man in prison for 7 extra years.

They act as if they are merely doing what is required by the law (i.e., calling balls and strikes), but in fact the result they reach is hardly compelled by the complex and ambiguous set of rules they are working with. The opposition interpretation is at least as reasonable and defensible. Why do they err on the side of the State, despite the trial judge's view that reducing the sentence is appropriate? I don't know.

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