Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pickett: 2255 Movant Failed to Satisfy Burden of Proof Under Beeman Based on Legal Landscape at Time of Sentencing

In United States v. Pickett, No. 17-13476 (Feb. 20, 2019) (Marcus, Dubina, Goldberg), the Court vacated the district court's grant of a 2255 motion based on Johnson and remanded for reconsideration in light of Beeman.

The Court remanded because Beeman was issued after the district court's order, and so the district court did not have an opportunity to apply Beeman's new standard.  Before reaching that conclusion, however, the Court determined that, in light of the current record and legal landscape, the movant did not meet his burden to show that the sentencing court more likely than not relied on the residual clause alone.  Although the Court acknowledged that the Florida battery convictions at issue obviously satisfied the residual clause in February 2007 -- and the district court's 2255 order included a comment reflecting that understanding -- it was unclear whether the sentencing court also relied on the elements clause.  That was so even though there were unpublished opinions saying that the battery convictions did not categorically satisfy the elements clause, and a contrary statement in a published opinion was only dicta.  Thus, even though the sentencing court would have easily determined that the convictions qualified under the residual clause, obviating any need to consider the elements clause, it was not clear what the sentencing court might have actually thought (if anything) about the elements clause.  Because the Court did not know what genuinely happened in that regard, the movant could not meet his burden of proof under Beeman to show that the court more likely than not relied on the residual clause alone, and the Court remanded for the district court to make that determination in the first instance.