Supreme Court

High court rules against man given 27 years in prison for having gun

The court's conservatives were in the 6-3 majority Thursday against Marcus DeAngelo Jones, who was sent to prison on federal gun charges.

Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a man whose conviction on gun charges was called into question by a recent high court decision is out of luck.

The court's conservatives were in the 6-3 majority against the man, Marcus DeAngelo Jones, who was given a 27-year prison sentence for violating a federal law meant to keep guns out of the hands of people with previous criminal convictions.

Jones had argued that he should be allowed another chance to get his conviction thrown out following a 2019 court decision. In that case, the justices ruled prosecutors must prove that people charged with violating federal gun laws knew they were not allowed to have a weapon.

Jones tried to reopen his case following the 2019 decision, but a federal appeals court ruled against him. The issue in the case is technical, though important, and involves when defendants can make their claims in court, not the facts of Jones' case.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court that people who have used up their appeals don't get another day in court "based solely on a more favorable interpretation of statutory law adopted after his conviction became final."

Only two instances, newly discovered evidence or the court's new interpretation of a constitutional provision, authorize a second bite at the apple under a 1996 federal law meant to limit federal appeals, Thomas wrote.

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Most federal appeals court would have allowed Jones to reopen his case, but Thomas wrote that those decisions amounted to an "end-run around" the 1996 law, known as AEDPA.

In dissent, the three liberal justices wrote that the decision produces "bizarre outcomes" and "disturbing results."

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that the ruling, coupled with other recent limits on appeals imposed by the court, have transformed "a statute that Congress designed to provide for a rational and orderly process of federal post-conviction judicial review into an aimless and chaotic exercise in futility."

Jones was convicted in 2000 for being a felon in possession of a gun. His lawyers argued that he thought his record had been cleared and he no longer was prohibited from having a gun.

The case is Jones v. Hendrix, 21-857.