Gatewood v. United States, No. 19-6297 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 1997, Gatewood was convicted of two counts of kidnapping and one count of robbery affecting interstate commerce. The court determined that Gatewood’s four prior Arkansas robbery convictions qualified as serious violent felonies and imposed a life sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3559(c), the federal three-strikes statute.
In 2016, Gatewood moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that his robbery convictions had been deemed serious violent felonies only under the residual clause. The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) residual clause had been found unconstitutionally vague in the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” decision. Gatewood filed his motion within a year of Johnson. The government argued that Johnson could not render the motion timely because it applied only to ACCA. The government also argued procedural default. The Supreme Court decided “Davis” in 2019, finding the 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) residual clause, which is nearly identical to the three-strikes residual clause, unconstitutionally vague.
The district court denied Gatewood’s motion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. While the government concedes that Gatewood’s motion was timely in light of Davis, Gatewood procedurally defaulted the vagueness claim by failing to raise it on direct review. Gatewood cannot establish cause by showing that his claim cut against circuit precedent at the time of his appeal. From Gatewood’s sentencing to the 2002 conclusion of his appeal, the tools to construct his present vagueness claim existed; no Supreme Court precedent foreclosed it.