United States v. Albert Pickett

The Federal Docket

March 10, 2019

United States v. Albert Pickett, No. 17-13476 (February 20, 2019)

The Court remanded the defendant’s second § 2255 motion since the defendant did not have an opportunity to show his conviction was based solely on the ACCA’s residual clause prior to the Eleventh Circuit announcing the heightened standard in Beeman.

28 USC 2255/ACCA – Defendant’s second § 2255 motion based on Johnson was remanded to the district court because the defendant did not have the opportunity to develop a record under the standard set in Beeman v. United States.

The district court initially granted Albert Pickett’s § 2255 motion after showing that he was no longer qualified for an enhanced sentence under the ACCA in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Johnson. The Government appealed but, before any briefs were filed, the Eleventh Circuit decided Beeman, where it held that a § 2255 movant must show their sentence was more likely than not based on the residual clause, and only the residual clause, of the ACCA in order to merit relief.

On appeal, the Court held that Pickett had not met the standard in Beeman but acknowledged that he did not have an opportunity to make his case under that standard because he filed his motion before Beeman was decided.

The Court noted that “whether the residual clause was the basis for the sentencing court’s enhancement is a question of historical fact” based on the record. If the record is under-determinative, courts are directed to look at the relevant case law at the time of sentencing.

Here, the Court analyzed the record on appeal to determine whether the district court qualified Pickett’s prior convictions solely under the residual clause. The Court held that, though the residual clause would have been “the most obvious clause” for the sentencing court to rely on (in fact, the sentencing court noted at sentencing that Pickett did not object to the PSI since the residual clause applied to his convictions), there was insufficient evidence showing the sentencing court more likely than not relied only on the residual clause and did not consider the elements clause. The case law at the time was also not determinative. Pickett therefore had not met his burden under Beeman.

The Court also held, however, that neither party could have anticipated the standard announced in Beeman, so the case was remanded to give Pickett an opportunity to develop the record and show that the district court did in fact only rely on the residual clause.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida

Opinion by Marcus, joined by Dubina and Goldberg (by designation from U.S. Court of International Trade)

TAGS: Section 2255

Page Pate - Page Pate is an accomplished trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience in criminal defense, civil litigation, and whistleblower representation. Page is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Top 100 Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers, and named to the list of Super Lawyers for the past 15 consecutive years. Page is a frequent expert legal analyst for local and national media and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia Law School. Read Page's reviews on AVVO. Follow Page on Twitter @pagepate and on Linkedin.

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