Criminal Justice on the Docket

United States v. Jackson (amicus)

Case Dates:
Tuesday, 21 April, 2020 - ongoing

The underlying case is United States v. Jackson, No. 1:15 CR 453-001, 2019 WL 2524786 (N.D. Ohio June 18, 2019) (Gaughan, C.J.), appeal filed, Nos. 19-3623 & 19-3711 (6th Cir.). Mr. Jackson was convicted of three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which imposes mandatory minimum sentencing enhancements for use of a firearm in the course of committing a federal crime of violence. Under § 924(c) as it existed at the time of his initial sentencing, those sentencing enhancements stacked with multiple offenses that occurred in the commission of the same crime: 5 or 7 years for the first offense, and 25 years for each subsequent offense. As a result, Mr. Jackson received a 57-year sentence.

He appealed his conviction and sentence, and the Sixth Circuit struck one of the § 924(c) convictions, vacated the sentence on that count, and remanded for general resentencing. While that appeal was pending, Congress enacted the First Step Act. The First Step Act significantly changed the sentencing scheme applied to Mr. Jackson and many other defendants by clarifying that the 25-year minimums only apply if the defendant committed a second violation after having being convicted in a separate case of a first one. As a result, a first-time § 924(c) offenders can still receive stacked five- or seven-year sentences for multiple counts in the same case, but no 25-year sentences.

The issue now is whether the First Step Act should control Mr. Jackson’s resentencing. The Act provides that it “shall apply to any offense that was committed before the date of enactment of this Act, if a sentence for the offense has not been imposed as of such date of enactment.” The government argues that a sentence is “imposed” on the first date it is entered, and that resentencing does not result in a new “imposition” date for First Step Act purposes. The district court disagreed and ruled in Mr. Jackson’s favor, holding that a vacatur of the sentence by the Court of Appeals wipes the slate clean, and thus the resentencing results in a new imposition of the sentence that falls within the First Step Act’s coverage.

Legal Theory:

Based on the express language of the statute, the First Steps Act’s reduction in sentencing for § 924(c) offenses should apply retroactively to individuals who were originally sentenced prior to the effective date of the Act and whose original sentences were subsequently vacated.


Along with attorneys from ACLU National’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, the Criminal Law Reform Project, and volunteer attorneys, we filed an amicus brief on April 21, 2020. Mr. Jackson’s brief was filed on April 17, and the government’s brief was filed on May 29. On January 7, 2021, the Court determined that oral argument was not required and the case was scheduled to be submitted on the briefs on March 10, 2021. We await a decision.