In re Hall

Decision Date30 October 2020
Docket NumberNo. 19-10345,19-10345
Citation979 F.3d 339
Parties IN RE: Orlando Cordia HALL, Movant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Robert Nathan Hochman, Sidley Austin, L.L.P., Chicago, IL, Benjamin Gillig, Sidley Austin, L.L.P., San Francisco, CA, Robert Charles Owen, Esq., Chicago, IL, Marcia Adele Widder, Georgia Resource Center, Atlanta, GA, for Movant

Jonathan F. Mitchell, Jonathan F. Mitchell, Austin, TX, for Amicus Curiae Jonathan F. Mitchell

Jonathan F. Mitchell, Austin, TX, for Jonathan F. Mitchell

Jonathan Glen Bradshaw, Assistant United States Attorney, Leigha Amy Simonton, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas, Dallas, TX, for Respondent

Before Dennis, Ho, and Oldham, Circuit Judges.

James C. Ho, Circuit Judge:

Over two decades ago, Orlando Cordia Hall and his conspirators kidnapped and then repeatedly raped a 16-year-old high school student. They then took turns beating her with a shovel, before covering her with gasoline and burying her alive. A jury convicted Hall of four federal crimes and sentenced him to death. His convictions have been repeatedly and unanimously upheld on appeal, both on direct review and in two federal habeas petitions. He now seeks authorization to file a third federal habeas petition.

Among his four convictions, Hall was sentenced to death for the crime of kidnapping resulting in death. He does not challenge that conviction here, however. Instead, he challenges his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. He argues, counterintuitively, that kidnapping resulting in death is somehow not a proper predicate "crime of violence" to support a § 924(c) conviction. We disagree.

There are two ways for the Government to establish a "crime of violence" under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). A "crime of violence" includes any felony that either (A) "has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another" (commonly known as the "elements" clause), or (B) "by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense" (commonly known as the "residual" clause).

The Supreme Court recently held the residual clause to be unconstitutionally vague in United States v. Davies , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 204 L.Ed.2d 757 (2019). So Hall hopes to challenge his § 924(c)(3) conviction by asking this court to apply Davis retroactively to his case. Because this is a successive federal habeas petition, however, he must show (among other things) that Davis has been "made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court ." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2) (emphasis added).

There is no need to reach the residual clause issue, because as we shall explain, kidnapping resulting in death plainly satisfies the elements clause of § 924(c)(3). In doing so, however, we observe that he may not be entitled to relief under the residual clause either. We acknowledge that, according to five of our sister circuits, Davis was "made retroactive ... by the Supreme Court" through its previous ruling in Welch v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 1257, 194 L.Ed.2d 387 (2016). But we are not so sure. The Government did not contest the issue in any of those circuits, thus depriving those circuits of adversarial process.1 Moreover, at least seven members of the federal judiciary—three of our colleagues and four Justices of the Supreme Court—have made clear that rulings such as Davis are not automatically retroactive, and thus must be made retroactive by the Supreme Court in a future case to comply with provisions such as 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2).

We do not ultimately reach the residual clause issue, however, because we conclude that kidnapping resulting in death satisfies the elements clause of § 924(c)(3). Accordingly, we deny Hall authorization to proceed on this successive habeas petition.

I.

Hall's conspirators violently kidnapped a 16-year-old high school student, Lisa Rene, inside her apartment. United States v. Hall , 152 F.3d 381, 389 (5th Cir. 1998). They tackled and dragged Rene to a car, where Hall was waiting and where he raped her. Hall and his conspirators then took Rene from Arlington, Texas to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Id.

The next day, Hall and his conspirators rented a motel room, where they tied their victim to a chair and raped her repeatedly. Id. Hall and at least one conspirator were armed with handguns. Id. One of the conspirators decided that Rene "kn[e]w too much," and so they went to Byrd Lake Park to dig a grave. Id. One day later, Hall and his conspirators blindfolded Rene and took her to the grave site. Id. at 390. There, they beat her over the head with a shovel. Id. She screamed and tried to escape, but they caught her and took turns beating her with a shovel. Id. One of the conspirators covered Rene in gasoline and they then buried her alive. Id.

Within a week, Hall and his conspirators were arrested and charged with Lisa Rene's kidnapping resulting in death. Id. Hall was convicted of four crimes: kidnapping resulting in death (death sentence), conspiracy to commit kidnapping (life imprisonment), traveling interstate to distribute drugs (sixty months served concurrently with the life sentence), and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence (sixty months to be served consecutively to the other sentences). Id.

Hall's trial and convictions occurred in 1995, and he brought his first § 2255 motion in 2002. Hall v. United States , 2004 WL 1908242, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 24, 2004). The district court denied Hall's motion, and our court denied his request for a certificate of appealability. United States v. Hall , 455 F.3d 508 (5th Cir. 2006). We also denied Hall's 2016 motion to file a second habeas petition. In re Hall , No. 16-10670, slip op. at *3 (5th Cir. June 20, 2016).

Hall now seeks authorization to file a third habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to challenge his yet-unserved sixty-month sentence for carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence. He argues that Davis v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 204 L.Ed.2d 757 (2019), which set aside the residual clause of § 924(c)(3), requires that his conviction for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence also be set aside—and that vacatur of his § 924(c) conviction would somehow require vacatur of his death sentence as well. As we shall demonstrate, however, Davis left intact the elements clause of § 924(c), and the crime of kidnapping resulting in death falls within the elements clause.

II.

To satisfy the elements clause, a crime of violence must have as a required element "the use ... of physical force." 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A). The Supreme Court has defined "physical force" in this context to mean "violent force—that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person." Johnson v. United States , 559 U.S. 133, 140, 130 S.Ct. 1265, 176 L.Ed.2d 1 (2010). And "force" includes "direct" and "indirect force," as well as "knowing or reckless conduct." United States v. Reyes-Contreras , 910 F.3d 169, 182–83 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc).

Courts use the categorical approach to determine whether an offense fits within § 924 ’s elements clause. See , e.g. , id. at 174. That "requires us first to identify the crime of conviction." Id. Courts must " ‘look only to the statutory definitions’i.e. , the elements—of [an offense], and not ‘to the particular facts underlying those convictions.’ " Descamps v. United States , 570 U.S. 254, 261, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 186 L.Ed.2d 438 (2013) (quoting Taylor v. United States , 495 U.S. 575, 600, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990) ). Elements are the parts of a crime that the "prosecution must prove to sustain a conviction." Mathis v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2248, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016) (quoting BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 634 (10th ed. 2014)).

When a statute lists multiple elements of conviction in the alternative, it is "divisible" into different offenses. Id. at 2249. To determine which offense formed the basis for the conviction, courts look to the trial record, "including charging documents , plea agreements, transcripts of plea colloquies, findings of fact and conclusions of law from a bench trial, and jury instructions and verdict forms "—a process known as the "modified categorical approach."

Johnson , 559 U.S. at 144, 130 S.Ct. 1265 (emphases added). See also Shepard v. United States , 544 U.S. 13, 125 S.Ct. 1254, 161 L.Ed.2d 205 (2005).

The federal kidnapping resulting in death provision involves different elements of conviction from the general federal crime of kidnapping—namely, the additional requirement that "the death of [a] person results"—and triggers an enhanced penalty. 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a). Accordingly, we conclude that kidnapping resulting in death is a different offense than generic kidnapping. See , e.g. , Burrage v. United States , 571 U.S. 204, 210, 134 S.Ct. 881, 187 L.Ed.2d 715 (2014) ("Because the ‘death results’ enhancement increased the minimum and maximum sentences to which Burrage was exposed, it is an element."); United States v. Ruiz-Hernandez , 890 F.3d 202, 210 (5th Cir. 2018) (similar).

Kidnapping resulting in death has as an element "the use ... of physical force" as required under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(A). We note that the Eighth Circuit recently reached the same conclusion. See United States v. Ross , 969 F.3d 829, 839 (8th Cir. 2020) ("Because the offense of kidnapping resulting in death has as an element the use of force, it is a crime of violence under § 924(c)."). And for good reason.

The "use of force" is not limited to the intentional or knowing use of force—it also includes conduct that recklessly disregards the risk of injury to another person. See, e.g. , Voisine v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 2272, 2279, 195 L.Ed.2d 736 (2016) ("[T]he word ‘use’ does not demand...

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