Monthly Archives: March 2016

Supreme Court to Consider Whether Johnson is Collaterally Retroactive

Welch v. United States, 15-6418

The Supreme Court recently agreed to consider extending, Johnson v. United States, — U.S. —., 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), to closed cases. The issues raised in Welch v. United States are:

(I) Whether the district court erred when it denied relief on petitioner’s section 2255 motion to vacate, which alleged that a prior Florida conviction for “sudden snatching” did not qualify for Armed Career Criminal Act enhancement pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §924(e);  and (2) Whether Johnson v. United States announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that applies retroactively to cases that are on collateral review.

It has been estimated that hundreds of inmates have already served the maximum sentence that would now have been imposed under the Johnson case, but still remain in prison, serving longer sentences. A decision applying Johnson to those inmates would lead to their prompt release. The question of retroactivity has resulted in multiple circuit splits among the federal appeals courts.

In Welch, the defendant was sentenced to fifteen years after being convicted of possession of a gun by a felon. Because he had three prior convictions of either a violent crimes or a serious drug crime, his sentence was enhanced under the so-called “residual clause” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. After the Johnson ruling came, Welch sought to reopen his case in a second §2255 petition, but the Eleventh Circuit refused to grant permission for him to appeal. The Court granted certiorari and set oral argument for March 30, 2016.

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