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December 21, 2011

Important (not-quite-circuit splitting) Seventh Circuit habeas ruling corrects too-long federal sentence

The Seventh Circuit has an interesting and important habeas ruling today in Narvaez v. USA, No. 09-2919 (7th Cir. Dec. 21, 2011) (available here). The start of the opinion and the final footnote highlights just some of the reasons this ruling is notable:

In 2003, Luis Narvaez pleaded guilty to bank robbery, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). The district court sentenced Mr. Narvaez as a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.1 because his record revealed two prior escape convictions involving failure to return to confinement, violations of Wisconsin Statute section 946.42(3)(a).  Mr. Narvaez later filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); he asserted that imposition of the career offender status was illegal in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008), and Chambers v. United States, 555 U.S. 122, 129 S. Ct. 687 (2009).  The district court denied Mr. Narvaez’s motion; it ruled that Begay and Chambers did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review.  The court then granted him a certificate of appealability.  We conclude that Begay and Chambersapply retroactively to Mr. Narvaez’s case.  Because Mr. Narvaez’s career offender sentence was improper, his period of incarceration exceeds that permitted by law and constitutes a miscarriage of justice.  He is therefore entitled to relief under § 2255.  Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for resentencing without imposition of the career offender status....

The Government invites our attention to the Eleventh Circuit’s recent decision in Gilbert v. United States, 640 F.3d 1293 (11th Cir. 2011) (en banc), No. 11-6053 (U.S. Aug. 17, 2011).  The Eleventh Circuit in Gilbert, however, explicitly did not address the issue in this case, namely whether a guidelines misapplication claim based on a new Supreme Court rule is cognizable in an initial collateral attack. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it had “no reason to decide that issue because this is not [the defendant]’s first collateral attack on his sentence.”  Id. at 1306.

The Government also invites our attention to the recent decision in Sun Bear v. United States, 644 F.3d 700 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc).  Unlike the defendant in Sun Bear, Mr. Narvaez’s sentence was not within the sentencing range had the career offender status not been applied.  Nevertheless, to the extent a tension between this opinion and the Eighth Circuit’s reasoning in Sun Bear exists, we respectfully disagree with our colleagues on the Eighth Circuit.

December 21, 2011 at 05:23 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: Benson Weintraub | Dec 22, 2011 1:55:46 AM

Thank !I really love to read this post

Posted by: Lorely | Dec 22, 2011 9:05:19 AM

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