Webster v. Daniels, No. 14–1049.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtWOOD, Chief Judge.
Citation784 F.3d 1123
PartiesBruce Carneil WEBSTER, Petitioner–Appellant, v. Charles A. DANIELS, Warden, United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Respondent–Appellee.
Decision Date01 May 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14–1049.

784 F.3d 1123

Bruce Carneil WEBSTER, Petitioner–Appellant
v.
Charles A. DANIELS, Warden, United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 14–1049.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Argued Jan. 7, 2015.
Decided May 1, 2015.


784 F.3d 1124

Steven J. Wells, Timothy J. Droske, Kirsten E. Schubert, Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis, MN, for Petitioner–Appellant.

James Wesley Hendrix, Office of the United States Attorney, Dallas, TX, for Respondent–Appellee.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER, POSNER, FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, KANNE, ROVNER, WILLIAMS, SYKES, TINDER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Opinion

WOOD, Chief Judge.

Since 1948, federal prisoners who contend that they were convicted or sentenced in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States have been required in most cases to present that claim through a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The motion must be filed in the district of conviction. As a rule, the remedy afforded by section 2255 functions as an effective substitute for the writ of habeas corpus that it largely replaced. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ; United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232 (1952). But Congress recognized that there might be occasional cases in which “the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [the applicant's] detention.”28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). The question before us is whether petitioner Bruce Webster has presented such a case. If so, then he may proceed to the merits of his petition; if not, then his case must be dismissed at the threshold.

Webster was convicted in the Northern District of Texas of the federal crimes of kidnapping resulting in death, conspiring to commit kidnapping, and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. United States v. Webster, 162 F.3d 308 (5th Cir.1998) (Webster I ). He was sentenced to death on the first count, after the district court rejected his argument

784 F.3d 1125

that he was ineligible for the death penalty on account of mental retardation (now termed “intellectual disability” by the Supreme Court, see Hall v. Florida, ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 1986, 1990, 188 L.Ed.2d 1007 (2014) ). The Fifth Circuit later rejected Webster's motion for relief under section 2255, United States v. Webster, 421 F.3d 308 (5th Cir.2005) ( Webster II ), and his application for an order authorizing a successive 2255 proceeding. In re Webster, 605 F.3d 256 (5th Cir.2010) (Webster III ).

Webster is now seeking the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence that would demonstrate that he is categorically and constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty under the Supreme Court's decisions in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002), and Hall. A panel of this court concluded that new evidence can never satisfy the demanding standard of section 2255(e) and thus that Webster cannot be heard. Webster v. Caraway, 761 F.3d 764 (7th Cir.2014) (Webster IV ). In light of the importance of the question, the full court decided to rehear the case en banc. We conclude that there is no such absolute bar to the use of the safety valve found in section 2255(e) for new evidence that would demonstrate categorical ineligibility for the death penalty. We therefore reverse the district court's judgment and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

A. Facts

There is no doubt that Webster and his co-defendants committed a horrible crime. We take our account of the underlying facts from the Fifth Circuit's opinion in Webster I. Those facts are largely undisputed at this stage; the only question is what they show, or do not show, about Webster's intellectual functioning.

Webster, along with Orlando Hall and Marvin Holloway, ran a marijuana business in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a city of approximately 50,000 that lies about 45 miles south of Little Rock and 330 miles east of Dallas, Texas. The group used suppliers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with the help of a local contact, Steven Beckley.

On September 21, 1994, Holloway drove Hall from Pine Bluff to the Little Rock airport, and Hall flew to Dallas; Beckley and Hall's brother Demetrius picked Hall up at the other end. Later that day, Hall and Beckley met two local dealers, Stanfield Vitalis and Neil Rene, at a car wash and gave them $4,700 as payment in advance for some marijuana. Beckley and Demetrius then returned to the car wash, but Vitalis and Rene never appeared. Hall phoned them to find out what happened, and they told him that both the car they had been driving and the money had been stolen from them. Hall figured out that the telephone number he had used was associated with the Polo Run apartments in Arlington, Texas (a Dallas suburb). Hall, Demetrius, and Beckley began watching the apartment. When they spotted Vitalis and Rene in the supposedly stolen car, they concluded that the story about the stolen money was also false.

Three days later, Hall contacted Holloway and told him to arrange for Webster to fly to Dallas. Webster complied with Holloway's instructions. That evening, Hall, Demetrius, Beckley, and Webster went to the Polo Run apartments in a Cadillac owned by Hall's sister, Cassandra Ross. Hall and Webster were armed with handguns; Demetrius had a small souvenir baseball bat; and Beckley had duct tape and a jug of gasoline. So equipped, the group approached the apartment they had

784 F.3d 1126

seen Vitalis and Rene use, and they knocked on the door. The occupant, Lisa Rene (the 16–year–old sister of Neil Rene), refused to let them in and called her sister and the police emergency number. Webster unsuccessfully tried to kick in the door. When that did not work, he and Demetrius looked through a sliding glass door and saw Lisa on the telephone. Demetrius shattered the door with the bat, and Webster entered the apartment, seized Lisa, and dragged her to the car.

In the meantime, Hall and Beckley had returned to the car. Webster, with Lisa in tow, met them there. He forced Lisa onto the floorboard and the group drove to Ross's apartment nearby. Once there, they left the Cadillac and shoved Lisa into the back seat of Beckley's car. Hall climbed into the back seat with her, and Webster sat in the front passenger seat. Beckley drove around looking for a secluded spot; while he did so, Hall raped Lisa and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Eventually Beckley drove them back to Ross's apartment. From there, Beckley, Demetrius, and Webster drove Lisa, still a prisoner, the 330 miles to Pine Bluff. En route, Webster and Demetrius took turns raping Lisa. Once they reached Pine Bluff, they rented a motel room, where they tied Lisa to a chair and continued to assault her sexually.

The next morning, September 25, Hall and Holloway showed up at the motel room. They took Lisa into the bathroom for about 20 minutes. When they came out again, Hall told Beckley that “she know too much.” Hall, Holloway, and Webster then left the motel. Later that afternoon, Hall and Webster went to a park and dug a grave. That evening, Hall, Beckley, and Webster took Lisa to the park, but they could not find the grave site in the dark and so they returned to the motel room. They shifted Lisa to another room the next morning.

Later that morning, Hall, Beckley, and Webster took Lisa back to the park. They covered her eyes with a mask. Hall and Webster led the way to the grave site, while Beckley guided Lisa along. At the grave site, Hall turned Lisa's back to the grave, placed a sheet over her head, and hit her in the head with a shovel. She tried to run away, but Beckley grabbed her and they both fell down. Beckley hit her twice with the shovel and handed it to Hall. At that point, Webster and Hall took turns hitting her with the shovel. Webster then gagged her, dragged her to the grave, stripped her, poured gasoline on her, pushed her in, and shoveled dirt over her. The record indicates that, although she was unconscious by then, Lisa was probably still breathing when she was buried.

It did not take long for the authorities to find out who was responsible for Lisa's hideous death. Lisa's brothers gave information leading to Demetrius's arrest to the police, and Hall and Beckley surrendered soon thereafter. Beckley confessed to his role in the kidnapping; his confession also implicated Hall and someone he called “B–Love.” Beckley also said that he had last seen Lisa at the motel with B–Love, and a security guard at the hotel told the officers that Webster went by that name. When Webster pulled into the motel parking lot early on September 30, he was arrested.

B. Trial and Direct Appeal

In November 1994, Webster (along with Hall, Demetrius, Beckley, and Holloway) was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping in which a death occurred (Count 1, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) ), conspiracy to commit kidnapping (Count 2, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c) ), traveling in interstate

784 F.3d 1127

commerce with intent to promote extortion (Count 5, 18 U.S.C. § 1952 ), and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence (Count 6, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) ). In...

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272 practice notes
  • Mitchell v. Warden, FCI-Greenville, Case No. 19-cv-0539-RJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • November 8, 2019
    ...something more than a lack of success with a § 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied." See Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).Analysis For the purpose of preserving the issue, Respondent first presents the Court with an argument he admits is inco......
  • Chazen v. Marske, No. 18-3268
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 9, 2019
    ...of the fundamental legality of his conviction and sentence." 147 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 1998) ; see also Webster v. Daniels , 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015) (en banc ) (reiterating that Davenport is the law of this circuit). In considering Chazen's appeal, we are bound by Davenport . ......
  • Wadlington v. Werlich, Case No. 17-cv-449-SMY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • April 7, 2020
    ...something more than a lack of success with a section 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied." Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).Discussion In Mathis, the United States Supreme Court resolved a split among the circuits as to when a court may consu......
  • Baez-Figueroa v. Attorney Gen. of Puerto Rico, CIVIL 14-1600 (FAB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • August 20, 2015
    ...relied on by petitioner to seek collateral relief. Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 447, 124 S. Ct. 2711 (2004); Webster v. Daniels, 784 F. 3d 1123, 1145 (7th Cir. 2015); Gonzales v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Ft. Leavenworth, KS et al., 949 F. Supp. 2d 688, 692 (E.D. Ky. 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
271 cases
  • Mitchell v. Warden, FCI-Greenville, Case No. 19-cv-0539-RJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • November 8, 2019
    ...something more than a lack of success with a § 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied." See Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).Analysis For the purpose of preserving the issue, Respondent first presents the Court with an argument he admits is inco......
  • Chazen v. Marske, No. 18-3268
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 9, 2019
    ...of the fundamental legality of his conviction and sentence." 147 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 1998) ; see also Webster v. Daniels , 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015) (en banc ) (reiterating that Davenport is the law of this circuit). In considering Chazen's appeal, we are bound by Davenport . ......
  • Wadlington v. Werlich, Case No. 17-cv-449-SMY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • April 7, 2020
    ...something more than a lack of success with a section 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied." Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).Discussion In Mathis, the United States Supreme Court resolved a split among the circuits as to when a court may consu......
  • Baez-Figueroa v. Attorney Gen. of Puerto Rico, CIVIL 14-1600 (FAB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • August 20, 2015
    ...relied on by petitioner to seek collateral relief. Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 447, 124 S. Ct. 2711 (2004); Webster v. Daniels, 784 F. 3d 1123, 1145 (7th Cir. 2015); Gonzales v. Commandant, U. S. Disciplinary Barracks, Ft. Leavenworth, KS et al., 949 F. Supp. 2d 688, 692 (E.D. Ky. 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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