Published on: Monday, January 22, 2018

In Lloyd v. United States, 17-6297, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded to the Fourth Circuit in light of the position taken by the Solicitor General in its brief. 

In 2003, Lloyd pleaded guilty to one count of possession with the distribute five grams or more of crack and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  His PSR showed three prior convictions at the time of his offense under South Carolina Law for, inter alia: (1) second-degree burglary; (2) strong-arm robbery; and (3) possession with intent to distribute marijuana.  Lloyd was determined to be subject an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act and sentenced to 188 months of imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release.

After the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1257 (2016) (holding ACCA’s residual clause was unconstitutionally vague) and Welch v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1257 (2016) (holding Johnson applies retroactively to cases on collateral review), Lloyd filed a § 2255 motion contending that his strong-arm robbery was no longer a “violent felony” under ACCA’s enumerated felony, elements, and residual clause.  Lloyd also argued his burglary conviction did not quality as an ACCA predicate because the state burglary statute was broader than generic burglary.   The district court denied his § 2255 motion and denied him a certificate of appealability (COA).  Although the district court found Lloyd’s § 2255 motion was timely as to his Johnson challenge to his strong-armed robbery ACCA predicate, it concluded that his strong-arm robbery conviction qualified as a “violent felony” under ACCA’s elements clause under post-Johnson Fourth Circuit precedent.  In an earlier stay order, the district court had determined Lloyd’s challenge to his burglary conviction was untimely, reasoning that 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3)’s one-year limitations period applicable to “newly-recognized claim[s]"  based on Johnson did not allow the assertion of an “unrelated challenge to the use of his burglary conviction” that did not rely on Johnson.    The Fourth Circuit denied Lloyd a COA in an unpublished per curiam opinion.

Lloyd sought certiorari arguing that reasonable jurist could debate whether his burglary predicate relied on Johnson, such that it was timely under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(f).  The government’s responsive brief in the Supreme Court argued that the case did not merit plenary review, but agreed that under current Fourth Circuit precedent, Lloyd “may no longer be eligible for an ACCA sentence.”  Were that the case, “the government would not oppose relief, notwithstanding any timeliness issues.”  Thus, the government suggested that the “Court grant the petition for certiorari for the limited purpose of vacating the court of appeals’ judgment and remanding for further proceedings in light of the position expressed in this brief.”

In doing so, the government acknowledged that Lloyd sought review of a reoccurring question: whether, “to qualify for Section 2255(f)(3)’s statute of limitations, a defendant must ‘show that the [sentencing] court definitively relied upon the residual clause,’ or whether it is enough to show that the sentencing court ‘may have’ done so.”  According to the government, this question did not warrant review because neither the district court nor the Fourth Circuit expressly addressed the question in Lloyd’s case, and noted that the lower court may have already adopted the rule Lloyd advocates.

Petitioner Lloyd is represented by Cody J. Groeber, Assistant Federal Defender, District of South Carolina.  Please visit the Training Division Sentencing Resources page for more information.