In King v. United States, No. 20-14100 (July 28, 2022) (Grant, Luck, Anderson), the Court affirmed the denial of a 2255 motion based on Davis.
In his plea agreement, the defendant agreed not to collaterally attack his conviction or sentence in a 2255 motion. After Davis, the defendant brought a 2255 motion, arguing that his 924(c) conviction, which was predicated on conspiracy, was no longer a valid crime. The Eleventh Circuit held that, even though Davis subsequently announced a new retroactive rule of constitutional law, the defendant’s waiver remained valid under contract principles. And while the Court had previously recognized limited exceptions to such waivers, including in the case of a jurisdictional defect, the defendant’s Davis claim did not fit any of those exceptions. Specifically, the Court held that the claim did not involve a sentence exceeding the statutory maximum, because the maximum must be understood based on the law in effect at the time the waiver was signed by the parties. The defendant bore the risk that there would be a favorable change in the law, and “the government’s wager has paid off” in that regard.
Judge Anderson concurred. He agreed that the Davis claim did not satisfy the exception for sentences exceeding the statutory maximum. However, he wrote separately to address the movant’s reliance on an exception for a miscarriage-of-justice/actual innocence. A footnote in the majority noted that the Court had never adopted such an exception. And Judge Anderson opined that this case would not satisfy any such exception because the defendant admitted to his involvement in an armed bank robbery at the plea, and that dismissed count could have formed the basis of the 924(c) offense.