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Chapa v. Wilson

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

May 14, 2019

JACINTO CHAPA, Petitioner,
ERIC D. WILSON, Warden, FMC-Fort Worth, Respondent.



         Before the Court are federal prisoner Jacinto Chapa's (“Chapa”) petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (ECF No. 1), the FMC-Fort Worth Warden's response (ECF No. 9), and Chapa's reply (ECF No. 14).[1] After considering the relief sought by Chapa, the record, related briefing, and applicable law, the Court concludes that Chapa's § 2241 petition should be and is hereby DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Chapa was convicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1, 000 kilograms or more of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, and 851. J., United States v. Chapa, No.1:07-cr-073-07 (S.D. Ind. Sep. 10, 2009), ECF No. 332.[2] He was sentenced to a 240 month term of imprisonment. Id. Chapa's plea agreement included an express appellate waiver, including a waiver of his rights to “contest his conviction or sentence or seek to modify his sentence or the manner in which it was determined in any type of proceeding, including, but not limited to, an action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.” Plea Agreement, App. 17-18, ECF No. 11-1. Chapa's direct appeal to the Seventh Circuit was dismissed. United States v. Chapa, 602 F.3d 865 (7th Cir. 2010). Review of Chapa's criminal docket shows that he never sought § 2255 relief there. He instead filed the instant § 2241 petition in this Court. Pet. 1, ECF No. 1.


         Chapa asserts that the convicting court improperly sentenced him to a mandatory minimum sentence of 240 years due to a prior felony drug offense. Pet. 1-2, ECF No. 1. He asserts four separate arguments in support of his broad ground for relief: (1) his 1996 conviction for possession of marijuana cannot serve as a prior conviction for a felony drug offense under DesCamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) and United States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016); (2) the mandatory minimum penalty provision in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) are unconstitutionally vague under the Supreme Court's ruling in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015); (3) the 1996 conviction was too old an offense to serve as the basis for a mandatory minimum sentence under § 841; and (4) he was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel because counsel did not object to the use of his 1996 drug conviction as a predicate felony offense. Pet. 2-4, ECF No. 1. Chapa seeks to be re-sentenced. Pet. 5, ECF No. 1.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Whether Chapa has invoked the § 2255 Savings Clause

         A motion under § 2255 is the primary means of collaterally attacking a federal conviction or sentence. Jeffers v. Chandler, 253 F.3d 827, 830 (5th Cir.2001) (per curiam) (citing Tolliver v. Dobre, 211 F.3d 876, 877 (5th Cir.2000) (per curiam)). “While § 2241 is more typically used to challenge the execution of a prisoner's sentence, a federal prisoner may bring a petition under § 2241 to challenge the legality of his conviction or sentence if he can satisfy the mandates of the ‘savings clause' of § 2255.” Christopher v. Miles, 342 F.3d 378, 381 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Reyes-Requena v. United States, 243 F.3d 893, 900-01 (5th Cir. 2001)). The statutory “savings clause” provides,

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in [sic] behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Under the “savings clause, ” the petitioner has the burden of showing that the § 2255 remedy is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Jeffers, 253 F.3d at 830.

         Chapa cannot rely on § 2241 merely because he might now be limited in seeking relief under § 2255. Cf. Pack v. Yusuff, 218 F.3d 448, 453 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Tolliver, 211 F.3d at 878) (holding that neither a prior, unsuccessful § 2255 motion, the limitations bar, nor successiveness renders the § 2255 remedy inadequate or ineffective). Moreover, the Fifth Circuit has determined that, before a petitioner may pursue relief through § 2241 under the language of the § 2255 savings clause, he must show that:

(1) his claim is based on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision; (2) the Supreme Court decision establishes that he was “actually innocent” of the charges against him because the decision decriminalized the conduct for which he was convicted; and (3) his claim would have been foreclosed by existing circuit precedent had he raised it at trial, on direct appeal, or in his original § 2255 petition.

Christopher, 342 F.3d at 382 (citing Reyes-Requena, 243 F.3d at 904 and Jeffers, 253 F.3d at 830). Chapa has not met his burden to make this ...

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