Monday, February 13, 2017

Johnson Case Doctrine Extended to Fifth Circuit Texas Case of US v Tanksley

Fifth Circuit Tanksley Decision Another Johnson-Based Reversal of Texas Drug Offense


            Appellant Dantana Tanksley pled guilty to felony drug possession, and at sentence was advised that his previous Texas drug conviction qualified as a "controlled substance offense" under US Sentencing Commissions Guidelines. Previous Texas law had held that his prior qualified under the guidelines.

            However, Mathis v. US changed the law, and the court held that the underlying Texas drug delivery statute, 481.112(a) was divisible., defining two crimes: possession with intent to deliver (which qualified for the enhancement under the Guidelines, ), and mere delivery, which did not.  Mathis held that this approach was proper only when the statute list element in the alternative. "Mathis is 'more than merely illuminating with respect to the case before us,' it unequivocally resolves the question in favor of Tanksley,'" the Fifth Circuit said.

            The case also rejected the government's fall-back defense of "harmless error," ruling that nothing the district court said substantiated that defense, and the Fifth Circuit refused to bail out the government. The court reversed the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

            This particular case is yet another in the line of Johnson-related cases that have granted prisoner relief.