United States v. Davis is retroactive
John Franklin made a motion for authorization to file a second or successive motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In re: John W. Franklin. Mr. Franklin argued that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) should be vacated because his arson conviction (18 U.S.C. § 844(i)) no longer qualified as a crime of violence in light of United States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019). The government agreed that Mr. Franklin’s motion should be granted because Davis announced a new rule of constitutional law that retroactively applied to cases on collateral review.
In a per curiam opinion, the Sixth Circuit observed that Davis established a “new rule” of constitutional law because its result was not dictated by precedent that existed when Mr. Franklin’s conviction became final. Lower courts usually do not apply a new rule announced by the Supreme Court retroactively to cases on collateral review until the Court has announced the rule’s retroactive effect. But there is a narrow exception which provides that lower courts “may determine on their own the retroactivity of new rules when multiple cases ... necessarily dictate the retroactivity of the new rule.” Slip Op. 2 (citation omitted).
Mr. Franklin’s case fell within that exception. The Sixth Circuit explained that Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), established Davis’s retroactivity because Davis announced a new substantive rule that narrowed the range of conduct punishable by law. More specifically, Davis narrowed the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3) by concluding that its residual clause (§ 924(c)(3)(B)) is unconstitutionally vague.
The Sixth Circuit further explained that arson under § 844(i) does not appear to qualify as a crime of violence under the elements - force clause of § 924(c)(3)(A) because it can be committed against “any building … used in interstate or foreign commerce,” including one owned by the arsonist. That meant Mr. Franklin’s conviction must have been based on § 924(c)(3)(B)’s residual clause which Davis invalidated and his proposed § 2255 petition relies on Davis’s rule. Consequently, Mr. Franklin’s motion for authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion was granted.