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West v. Sloan

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

June 8, 2017

FREDERICK C. WEST, Petitioner,
v.
BRIGHAM SLOAN, Warden, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING DOC. 1]

          JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Frederick C. West petitions for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] He alleges three grounds for relief.[2] After considering West's arguments, Magistrate Judge Kathleen B. Burke filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”).[3] She recommends that the Court dismiss in part and deny in part West's petition.[4] Petitioner objects to the R&R.[5]

         For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES Petitioner's objections to the R&R, ADOPTS the R&R, and DENIES Petitioner's § 2254 petition.

         I. Background

         In December 2013, a Summit County Grand Jury indicted West for one count of aggravated robbery, one count of obstructing official business, and one count of illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia.[6] Ohio later added two repeat violent offender specifications were later added to the indictment.[7]

         In April 2014, West moved to dismiss the case. He argued that the State of Ohio violated his right to a speedy trial.[8] The trial court denied the motion.[9]

         On June 10, 2014, the jury found West guilty of aggravated robbery and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia.[10] On August 5, 2014, the trial court found West guilty of the repeat violent offender specifications.[11] The Ohio trial court sentenced West to 12 years' incarceration.[12]

         Petitioner West raised five arguments on direct appeal:

1. West was denied his rights to a speedy trial pursuant to the 6th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution; and the Ohio Revised Code.
2. West's aggravated robbery conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence, which violated his rights to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution, and therefore his conviction on that count and the attached repeat violent offender specification must be vacated.
3. West's aggravated robbery conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and must be reversed.
4. Introducing evidence of a suggestive and unreliable “show up” identification violated West's due process rights under the 14th Amendment, meriting reversal of his convictions.
5. During West's sentencing hearing, the trial court did not enunciate any sentence for West's misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge, mandating reversal and a new hearing.[13]

         On July 22, 2015, the Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's judgment.[14] The appellate court agreed with West's fifth argument, finding that the trial court erred by sentencing West to serve thirty days' imprisonment on the drug paraphernalia count without addressing that charge in open court.[15] The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing on the drug paraphernalia count.[16]

         On remand, the prosecutor recommended dismissing the drug paraphernalia count.[17]

         On August 24, 2015, West filed a pro se notice of appeal in the Ohio Supreme Court.[18]West re-asserted the four arguments denied by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.[19]

         On October 28, 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court declined jurisdiction.[20]

         On April 22, 2016, West filed his pro se federal habeas petition.[21] West argues (1) his right to speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment and Ohio state law was violated; (2) his aggravated robbery conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence; and (3) a suggestive and unreliable “show up” identification violated his due process rights.[22]

         On April 19, 2017, Magistrate Judge Kathleen B. Burke filed an R&R.[23] She recommends that the Court (1) dismiss in part and deny in part West's speedy trial argument; (2) deny West's insufficiency of evidence argument; and (3) dismiss West's due process argument.[24]

         West objects to all three recommendations in the R&R.

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to conduct a de novo review only of those portions of the R&R to which the parties have properly objected.[25]

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”)[26] controls habeas review of state court proceedings. AEDPA generally requires that a petitioner exhaust all of his available state court remedies before seeking habeas relief.[27] To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, the state courts must have “one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues.”[28] A district court will not consider a habeas petitioner's “contentions of federal law . . . not resolved on the merits in the state proceeding due to [a petitioner's] failure to raise them there as required by state procedure.”[29]

         III. Discussion

         Ground One

         Petitioner West first argues that his speedy trial right was violated. The Court agrees with the R&R that to the extent Petitioner raises a speedy trial argument under the Ohio Constitution and the Ohio Revised Code, the claim is not cognizable here.[30]

         Petitioner argues that the violation of his rights under Ohio law creates a federal due process violation.[31] This Court disagrees.

         Habeas relief may be available if an alleged error of state law subjected the petitioner to a “fundamentally unfair” criminal process.[32] Only when a state ruling “offend[s] some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people” does it constitute fundamental unfairness.[33]

         The state appellate court provided thorough analysis in denying Petitioner's claim under Ohio law.[34] This Court finds neither the state appellate court's process nor its decision to be “fundamentally unfair.” Petitioner's due process rights were not violated.

         Petitioner also argues that his federal speedy trial right was violated. This claim also fails.

         Petitioner argues that federal law requires a trial within 90 days of his arrest. Federal law has no such requirement. Rather, courts weigh four factors in determining whether the speedy trial right has been violated.[35]

         “[T]he Supreme Court articulated four factors that must be considered in determining whether the right to a speedy trial has been violated: (1) whether the delay was uncommonly long; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) whether the defendant asserted his right to ...


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