United States Of America V. Ronald Eric Boyd – Case Analysis

United States of America V. Ronald Eric Boyd was decided on April 20, 2017, before three circuit judges, where Ronald Boyd sought a certificate of appealability (COA) in order to challenge  a denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The judges denied his request and dismissed his appeal. This paper seeks to analyze the facts, arguments, and fairness of the ruling, as well as examine the usage of the applicable statutes and their precision. The author finds that there is a need to revise the Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 645 in order to better define the elements of “assault” and “battery.”

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            In the initial District court case, which was decided in 2005, Mr Boyd, the appellant, pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g) and another count of firearm possession in connection with a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (1) (A). The court decided that he was subject to the provisions of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), based on two previous drug convictions and one conviction for battery and assault with a dangerous weapon under Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 645. However, Mr Boyd was unsatisfied by the ruling and proceeded to take his motion to the Supreme Court in a bid to challenge the severity of his sentence, based on the sentence enhancement under § 924(e). The latest case, which this paper explores, is Mr Boyd’s last attempt to seek the COA in order to challenge the denial of his motion.

            First, the jury provided that a prisoner may not appeal a denial of relief under § 2255 without having a COA unless the applicant makes a substantial demonstration of the denial of a constitutional right. Second, the court clarified the provisions of Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 645 (1999) whereby the jury maintained that § contains a set of detachable elements. They comprise battery, assault, and the resulting interconnections. The § 645 criminalizes battery, assault, or assault and battery with any sharp or dangerous weapon. It also criminalizes shooting at another. Notably, the first alternative involves the sub-alternatives of “battery,” “assault,” or “battery and assault.” Under Oklahoma law, simple battery and simple assault require even the slightest element of force or touch. Further, the jury concluded that the additional element of a “dangerous weapon,” indeed qualifies as a crime of violence.  

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It is important to note that the initial case involved Mr Boyd possessing a sawed-off shotgun during drug trafficking. Due to the given conclusions in United States v. Treto-Martinez, 421 F.3d 1156, and his previous drug convictions, Mr Boyd, had intentionally caused physical contact with a person in an insulting, angry, and rude manner. Thus, his crime fits the criteria of Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 645 to be referred to as a crime of violence. His sentence was therefore deserved. However, based on the details presented in the case, there is a need to reduce the ambiguity in the provisions of the § 645. There are many past cases where similar confusion was noted (Diamond et al., 1996, pp. 56-57) (Moore, 2011, p.1585) (Plante, 1967, p. 639). In light of this, the statute should be revised to allow for a distinct definition of the elements of battery and assault. In doing this, those responsible for the change should think of a scenario where a subject is involved in arms possession but with unproven intent to hurt.

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