Sat. Jun 8th, 2024

US, v. Jessie Bullock – Federal Judge Tosses Gun Possession Case Against Convicted Felon


Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Jesse Roland BULLOCK, Jr. v. STATE of Mississippi.


No. 1999-CP-01667-SCT.

Decided: September 14, 2000

BEFORE BANKS, P.J., WALLER AND DIAZ, JJ. Jesse Roland Bullock, Appellant, pro se. Office of the Attorney General by Billy L. Gore, Attorney for Appellee.

¶ 1. This matter is before the Court on appeal from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Marion County dismissing Jesse Roland Bullock, Jr.’s Petition for Post Conviction Relief.   Because Bullock’s petition is time barred, we affirm.


¶ 2. Jesse Roland Bullock, Jr. pled guilty in October of 1991 to manslaughter and aggravated assault.   On November 1, 1991 he was sentenced to twenty years for manslaughter and twenty years for aggravated assault, with ten years of the aggravated assault to run concurrently with the sentence for manslaughter and ten years to run consecutively.

¶ 3. In August of 1999, Bullock filed a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief.   The circuit court dismissed the motion as procedurally barred.   Bullock filed a timely notice of appeal.



¶ 4. Bullock’s motion for post-conviction relief was barred by Miss.Code Ann. § 99-39-5(2) (1994).   Pursuant to § 99-39-5(2) a defendant has three years after being sentenced to bring an action.  Miss.Code Ann. § 99-39-5(2).   The statute also establishes three exceptions to the three-year time bar.  Luckett v. State, 582 So.2d 428, 430 (Miss.1991).   However, Bullock does not fit under any of the exceptions.



¶ 5. Were we to reach the merits of Bullock’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, we would conclude that there was not enough evidence in the record to support this claim.   See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984).


¶ 6. Accordingly, the circuit court’s judgment is affirmed.


BANKS, Presiding Justice, for the Court:




US, v. Jessie Bullock – Gun Possession & Convicted Felons

Being convicted of a felony–even a violent one–is not enough to deprive someone of their Second Amendment rights for life, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, an Obama appointee, dismissed a felon-in-possession of a firearm prosecution against Jesse Bullock, a Mississippi man, on Wednesday. Judge Reeves ruled that the federal government failed to meet its burden of showing that the historical tradition of firearms regulation supported permanently disarming Bullock for his past crimes, as required under the Supreme Court’s latest precedent.

“The government’s arguments for permanently disarming Mr. Bullock, however, rest upon the mirage of dicta, buttressed by a cloud of law review articles that do not support disarming him,” Judge Reeves wrote in United States v. Bullock. “In Bruen, the State of New York presented 700 years of history to try and defend its early 1900s‐era gun licensing law. That was not enough. Bruen requires no less skepticism here, where the challenged law is even younger.”

The ruling marks the first U.S. District Court to strike down the federal prohibition on convicted felons possessing firearms—18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Though its opinion only extends to the defendant Bullock, it will undoubtedly add fuel to the growing legal fire over who can be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms following the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen. It could also help motivate the Supreme Court to step in and further expound on where the limits of Second Amendment protections lie.

To date, federal courts have been split over whether the Second Amendment protects non-violent felons, unlawful drug users, persons under felony indictment, and those subject to a domestic violence restraining order.

Judge Reeves made headlines in November of last year when he was first assigned to hear Bullock’s case and consider whether or not he could be disarmed. He publicly chastised the Supreme Court for its legal test outlined in the Bruen decision and its emphasis on history in reaching outcomes.

“This Court is not a trained historian. The Justices of the Supreme Court, distinguished as they may be, are not trained historians,” he wrote in an opinion ordering the Department of Justice to brief him on whether he needed to appoint a historian to decide the case. “We are not experts in what white, wealthy, and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791. Yet we are now expected to play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication.”

He was no less forceful in his criticism of the High Court and its Bruen decision in his 77-page dismissal opinion on Wednesday.

“In Second Amendment cases, though, the pyramid is turned on its head,” Reeves wrote. “The trial record can be nonexistent. None of the history is ‘tested in an adversarial proceeding,’ and there may be no factual findings that ordinarily would receive some form of deference. The appellate courts do the best with the briefs they have, but all that matters is the Supreme Court’s historical review, conducted de novo as a legal rather than a factual question, with dozens of amicus briefs never before seen by another court. Is this the best way of doing justice?”

Nevertheless, under the test spelled out by the Bruen decision, Reeves found that the government failed to demonstrate a historical tradition of permanently disarming felons. Instead, he noted that the government simply pointed to Supreme Court dicta or the “more than 120 U.S. District Court decisions” that have upheld the felon-in-possession ban since Bruen to show that it is presumptively constitutional, which he said was insufficient.

“The government’s citation to the mere volume of cases is not enough,” Reeves wrote. “The federal felon‐in‐possession ban was enacted in 1938, not 1791 or 1868—the years the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were ratified. The government’s brief in this case does not identify a ‘well‐established and representative historical analogue’ from either era supporting the categorical disarmament of tens of millions of Americans who seek to keep firearms in their home for self‐defense.”

The case centered around Jessie Bullock, who, in 1992, was convicted of aggravated assault and manslaughter for a “deadly bar fight.” He served 15 years in prison. He also was convicted of fleeing law enforcement and attempted aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer in 2015 and received a five-year suspended sentence. In 2018, he was indicted for knowingly possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, but he was not arrested until 2020. After a series of pandemic-related delays, Bullock was finally set to go to trial over the gun charge in August 2022 before he filed a motion to have his charge dismissed in light of Bruen.

Judge Reeves conducted his own review of the reasoning and laws cited in dozens of other post-Bruen cases challenging prohibited person restrictions but found there was no clear analog for the punishment Bullock received. And he said the government, who had the burden to prove the law was consistent with American tradition, didn’t provide enough evidence to change his analysis.

“[T]he plain text of the Second Amendment covers Mr. Bullock’s conduct—possession of ordinary firearms in the home—and therefore presumptively protects him,” Reeves wrote.

While much of the opinion was spent criticizing the Supreme Court’s view of the Second Amendment and its new test for applying it, Judge Reeves ultimately said the high standard might be justified.

“Maybe the Supreme Court is correct that in this country, to ‘secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,’ the government should have the burden of justifying itself when it deprives people of their constitutional rights,” he wrote. “Perhaps the Court is also correct that constitutional rights should be defined expansively.”

However, he also said the Court has not consistently protected other constitutionally-guaranteed rights to the same degree. He argued that the right to a speedy trial, the right to a writ of habeas corpus, and the right to vote have all been whittled down while gun rights have been restored.

“In breathing new life into the Second Amendment, though, the Court has unintentionally revealed how it has suffocated other fundamental Constitutional rights,” Reeves wrote. “Americans are waiting for Heller and Bruen’s reasoning to reach the rest of the Constitution.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the ruling or its plans for an appeal. source



Another Judge Chips Away at Laws Barring Felons From Owning Guns

Now both a violent and nonviolent felon have been found by lower courts to have a Second Amendment right to own weapons. The Supreme Court will likely consider the issue in the near future.

The law barring felons from owning firearms suffered another significant judicial blow in a decision yesterday in U.S. v. Bullock. Generally knows as the “felon in possession law,” U.S. Code 922(g)(1) prohibits firearm ownership for those found guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. Jessie Bullock filed a motion in August 2022 to have such charges against him dismissed, and Judge Carlton W. Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi granted that motion yesterday.

Bullock had served about 15 years in state prison for manslaughter and aggravated assault after killing someone in a 1992 bar fight. The government indicted him in 2018, when he was 57 years old, for possessing a firearm despite his felon status, and wanted to give him another 10 years.

As Reeves sums up the history of Bullock’s felon-in-possession case, a magistrate judge thought it was “‘downright silly’ to claim that Mr. Bullock ‘poses a danger to his wife, contrary to her own sworn testimony, contrary to the time that he’s been out on bond from this very incident’….Mr. Bullock has remained on bond ever since, without incident.”

Bullock’s claim, as Reeves put it, is that since he “finished serving his sentence long ago, and the available evidence indicates that the firearm the government complains of was kept in the sanctity of his home,” the charge against him violated his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Reeves explicitly says that his decision involves an “as applied” challenge to 922(g)(1). He states outright that despite dismissing the case against Bullock, “the federal government may continue to prosecute other persons for violating § 922(g)(1).”

Still, the arguments he presents make a strong case for saying the law is unconstitutional in its entirety as written.

Reeves’ reasoning is based on the 2022 Bruen decision, which overturned some New York restrictions on the public carrying of weapons. That case declared that to stand up under Second Amendment scrutiny, a law must be “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” (Reeves makes it clear with near-sarcasm throughout the decision that he wishes the Supreme Court had not set the precedent requiring him to dismiss the case against Bullock; he has done this kind of “you idiots in the Supreme Court made me do this ridiculous thing” decision making in an earlier case upholding qualified immunity for a police officer, as Billy Binion reported here at Reason in 2020.)

Reeves cannot help (though he clearly would like to) but notice that the 120 previous U.S. district court cases the federal government relied on to prove that such laws are totally constitutional do not adequately demonstrate the required post-Bruen “historical tradition” to prop up the law. “In none of those cases did the court possess an amicus brief from a historian. And in none of those cases did the court itself appoint an independent expert to help sift through the historical record,” Reeves notes.

Reeves also spells out later in his decision that the Justice Department has itself admitted in filings in other cases that the felon-in-possession law is, as stated in particular in an appellee brief in U.S. v. Pettengill, “firmly rooted in the twentieth century and likely bears little resemblance to laws in effect at the time the Second Amendment was ratified.”

The facts that lead Reeves to toss the case against Bullock are surprisingly simple: “The federal felon‐in‐possession ban was enacted in 1938, not 1791 or 1868—the years the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were ratified. The government’s brief in this case does not identify a ‘well‐established and representative historical analogue’ from either era supporting the categorical disarmament of tens of millions of Americans who seek to keep firearms in their home for self‐defense.”

That bald statement does imply to this layman that the law should not be able to stand any constitutional scrutiny, though Reeves insists he’s not saying that. His granting an actual violent felon, Bullock, the right not to be prosecuted for owning a gun follows on a June en banc decision from the 3rd Circuit in the case of Range v. Attorney General. That decision found the law unconstitutional as applied to a particular nonviolent felon who had merely lied on a food stamp application and never actually spent a day in jail—though he could have been sent up for more than a year, per 922(g)(1).

Reeves says there might be room for states to do things the federal government should not, or to legitimately keep certain felons from owning guns, even after Bruen; he posits that “American history might support state‐level felon disarmament laws; that at least would align with principles of federalism. It might support disarmament of persons adjudicated to be dangerous….And it likely does support disarmament of persons convicted of death‐eligible offenses. The power to take someone’s life necessarily includes the lesser power to disarm them.”

Reeves made news in this case last November by passive-aggressively complaining that he might need to appoint a historian to assist him in understanding the case, since the Bruen decision requires him to “play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication.” Neither party in the case agreed that this was necessary; Bullock’s team asserted that it was the government’s burden to prove the historical validity of the felon possession laws, and the government just insisted that “the prohibition against felons possessing firearms is so thoroughly established as to not require detailed exploration of the historical record.”

Reeves did not agree.

To preview how the Supreme Court might ultimately consider the issue Reeves’ decision has brought to renewed prominence, he quotes extensively from a pre–Supreme Court dissent from now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the 2019 7th Circuit decision Kanter v. Barr, in which she agrees that sweeping prohibitions on all felons, though possibly not demonstrably dangerous ones, should not stand under the Second Amendment. (Rickey Kanter got a Trump pardon.) Elsewhere in Reeves’ decision in Bullock, the judge quotes Bruen concurrences from Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh in which they both say out loud that Bruen in and of itself did not cast doubt on existing laws prohibiting felons from owning guns. Reeves thinks references by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 2008 Heller decision (which first established that the Second Amendment meant individual citizens had a right to keep commonly owned weapons for self-defense in the home; Bruen extended that to public carrying) to “law abiding, responsible citizens” are mere dicta with no power to prevent a decision like his.

Reeves goes on to somewhat slyly speculate about how the Supreme Court might look upon what he’s done, while concluding that “this Court will refrain from counting the Justices’ votes today.”

But Reeves does explain that “another common method of denying these motions”—that is, previous motions such as Bullock’s that did not succeed—”is to tally the felon‐in‐possession votes implied by Bruen‘s concurrences and dissent. Recall that in these separate opinions, six Justices endorsed felon disarmament. Five of those Justices are still on the Court. As a result, some district courts have assumed that as a simple matter of realpolitik, there is no chance the Supreme Court will find § 922(g)(1) unconstitutional in a future case….It certainly is tempting for busy trial judges to try and resolve complicated issues via this kind of calculation. But this Court cannot honor an advisory opinion on an issue that was not before the Supreme Court.”

Some facts about felon-in-possession laws from FY 2021 from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC): 7,454 such convictions came before the USSC, and the number from 2017 through 2021 was always over 6,000 a year.

Over 97 percent of such violators were men, 56 percent were black, 95 percent were U.S. citizens, and their average age was 34. Over 96 percent of such offenders were sentenced to prison, with an average sentence of 60 months.

Through a complicated point system, the USSC divides offenders’ “criminal history category” into six categories; of those sentences under 922(g)(1), 39 percent were in one of the three lower categories.

While the figures cannot be known for certain, one analysis surmises up to 100,000 convicted felons in the U.S. still own guns, despite the fact that the federal government insists (and most courts agree) that it is categorically illegal to do so—although this Bullock decision and the 3rd Circuit’s Range decision are chipping away at that certainty. source

Judge doesn’t need historian to review gun law, say prosecutors, defense counsel

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2022. U.S. Senate/Handout via
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2022. U.S. Senate/Handout via

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are in rare agreement that a federal judge in Mississippi should not take the unusual step of appointing a historian to help him decide whether a federal firearms law complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June expanding gun rights.

The opposing sides in briefs filed on Monday laid out their views after U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in a blistering opinion in October criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, which changed the framework courts must use to evaluate gun regulations.

That decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. The 6-3 ruling powered by the court’s conservative majority instructed courts going forward to undertake a review of history to determine if gun restrictions are “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The ruling has led to a series of lower-court decisions declaring various gun restrictions unconstitutional and provided the grounds for a criminal defendant before Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi, Jesse Bullock, to challenge the federal ban on felons possessing firearms.

In an Oct. 27 opinion, Reeves, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, faulted the Supreme Court’s history requirement, saying he and other judges were not “trained historians.”

“And we are not experts in what white, wealthy, and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791,” Reeves, who is Black, wrote. “Yet we are now expected to play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication.”

Reeves then asked the parties whether he should appoint a historian as a consultant to help him “identify and sift through authoritative sources on founding‐era firearms restrictions” as he weighed tossing the criminal case against Bullock.

But in filings late Monday, both sides said a historian was “unnecessary,” with prosecutors saying the judge should look to the parties themselves to provide support for their positions on whether the statute is constitutional.

Bullock’s lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Scott, said appointing a historian would wrongly relieve the government of its burden to establish the law was constitutional.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Department of Justice also raised a prospect they did not desire: Other judges following Reeves’ lead.

“The prospect of judges in all 94 federal judicial districts retaining a historian would be an expensive proposition and a departure from the typical reliance on the parties to provide support for their legal positions,” prosecutors wrote.

The case is United States v. Bullock, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, No. 3:18-cr-00165.

For the United States: Gaines Cleveland and Jessica Terrill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi

For Bullock: Michael Scott of the Office of the Public Defender


The Reeves Process

A federal judge in Mississippi takes up the Supreme Court’s challenge to ‘play historian.’

What a constitutional contest is opened by the remarks of Judge Carlton Reeves of the United States District Court at Jackson, Mississippi. His Honor is complaining that the justices of the Supreme Court want the lower courts to “play historian.” This arises because of Justice Clarence Thomas’s remarks about the Second Amendment, and now Judge Reeves is talking about hiring a historian to fight — so to speak — fire with fire.

In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Thomas signaled that only restrictions “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” pass constitutional muster. The justice offered his own historical precis as ballast to the majority’s holding that the Empire State’s permitting regulations on concealed carry were unconstitutionally arduous. We look, the justice instructed, to “history and tradition.”

It fell to Judge Reeves to parse what this ruling issued from the constitutional mountaintop signified for the case he was adjudicating in the statutory valley. It was a case that concerned the ability of convicted felons to bear arms. He lamented that the Nine conscripted him to “play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication” and, in a seeming swipe, suggested that the “justices of the Supreme Court, as distinguished as they may be, are not trained historians.” source

Learn more about your gun rights:

Fifth Circuit Strikes Down Domestic-Violence Prohibitor in United States v. Rahimi

US, v. Jessie Bullock – Federal Judge Tosses Gun Possession Case Against Convicted Felon

New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen