United States v. Castro, No. 18-10137 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Defendant was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 2114(a) by assaulting mail carriers and putting their lives in danger, and violating 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A) and (c)(3)(B) by using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Defendant was sentenced to 552 months in prison, including four concurrent sentences for 168 months based on the fact that defendant put his victims' lives in jeopardy by the use of a dangerous weapon. Defendant was subsequently granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether the district court erred by denying defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion as untimely. In this case both sides agree that defendant's COA is invalid because it fails to specify a constitutional issue.
Given the plain text of 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(2), Supreme Court precedent, and the similarities between the COA requirement and other habeas doctrines, the Fifth Circuit held that an invalid COA can and should be vacated. In so holding, the court aligned its circuit with the strong majority of circuits that have confronted this issue.