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Media Alerts - Farrow v. Revell - Fourth Circuit
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November 12, 2013
  Farrow v. Revell - Fourth Circuit
Headline: When Change of Law Renders §2255 Inadequate or Ineffective, Courtroom Doors May Open Under §2241

Area of Law: Criminal Procedure

Issue Presented: Whether a §2241 petition can be used to test the legality of a conviction, when a §2255 motion is rendered inadequate or ineffective because the change of law that creates a valid claim is not a rule of constitutional law.

Brief Summary: Upon learning that the law under which he had been convicted had changed, federal inmate Michael Anthony Farrow used a petition for writ of habeas corpus, under 28 U.S.C. §2241, to challenge his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and his status as an armed career criminal. Farrow asserted actual innocence with respect to both under the theory that the Fourth Circuit's decision in United States v. Simmons made what was criminal conduct at the time of his conviction, no longer a crime. A direct appeal and a 28 U.S.C. §2255 motion Farrow filed prior to the court's decision in Simmons were both resolved adversely to him. It was from the district court's dismissal of his subsequent actual innocence claims under §2241 that Farrow appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The district court held that these claims are not cognizable in a § 2241 petition.

Generally, when a federal prisoner seeks to challenge the legality of his conviction or sentence, he must use a §2255 petition. Section 2241 petitions are typically reserved for challenges to the execution of the prisoner's sentence. There are limited circumstances when §2255 is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of the prisoner's conviction. In these circumstances, the prisoner may file a habeas petition pursuant to §2241 instead. The Fourth Circuit's opinion, In re Jones, outlines these limited circumstances. As the court in that case found, a § 2241 petition may be used to test the legality of a conviction when (1) at the time of conviction, settled law of the circuit or the Supreme Court established the legality of the conviction; (2) subsequent to the prisoner's direct appeal and first §2255 motion, the substantive law changed such that the conduct of which the prisoner was convicted is deemed not to be criminal; and (3) the prisoner cannot satisfy the gatekeeping provision of §2255 because the new rule is not one of constitutional law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court on the challenge to Farrow's armed career criminal status, noting that §2255 does not permit a petitioner to claim actual innocence as to a sentencing factor. But the court held that Farrow's actual innocence claim did satisfy the three prongs of the Jones test with regard to his felon in possession conviction. Without offering an opinion on the merit of Farrow's actual innocence claim, the court vacated and remanded for further consideration.

The full opinion may be viewed here:

Panel: Judges Wilkinson, Thacker and Hamilton

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/09/2013

Docket Number: No. 13-6804

Decided: Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

Case Alert Author: Robin Williams Wood

Counsel: Pro Se-Appellant

Author of Opinion: Per curiam

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/12/2013 01:42 PM     4th Circuit  

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