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Raglin v. Mitchell

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Cincinnati

November 13, 2017

WALTER RAGLIN, Petitioner,
BETTY MITCHELL, Warden, Respondent.

          Michael R. Barrett District Judge


          Michael R. Merz United States Magistrate Judge

         This capital habeas corpus case is before the Court sua sponte to correct an order pending on objections before District Judge Barrett. In light of the Sixth Circuit's decision in In re Campbell, __ F.3d __, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21094 (6th Cir. Oct. 25, 2017), the Magistrate Judge's prior Decision and Order allowing Mr. Raglin to file a Third Amended Petition pleading lethal injection invalidity claims (ECF No. 275) is clearly mistaken as a matter of law and is hereby VACATED. The following is substituted in its place.

         Litigation History

         On September 29, 2013, District Judge Barrett dismissed all Grounds for Relief in Petitioner Raglin's First Amended Petition and ordered him to file his Second Amended Petition within fourteen days, limited to two lethal injection invalidity claims (ECF No. 198). Raglin did not file at that time, but sought a stay in light of Ohio's adoption of a new lethal injection protocol “due to the need to amend his habeas petition to plead his newly-ripe lethal-injection claims.” (ECF No. 200, PageID 2373). Dennis McGuire was executed on January 16, 2014. While the implications of that execution were considered by all parties, Raglin's date to move to amend was repeatedly extended to March 17, 2014 (ECF No. 203), June 11, 2014 (ECF No. 206), June 27, 2014 (ECF No. 208), October 2, 2014 (ECF No. 209), April 13, 2015 (ECF No. 227), July 1, 2015 (ECF No. 237), October 5, 2015 (ECF No. 243), November 4, 2015 (ECF No. 245), April 1, 2016 (ECF No. 253), and finally to thirty days after issuance of the mandate in Adams v. Bradshaw (ECF No. 260). The relevant Motion to Amend (ECF No. 272) was granted April 10, 2017 (ECF No. 275), but the obligation of Petitioner to actually file his Third Amended Petition was stayed until after the Warden's objections to amendment would be resolved by Judge Barrett (ECF No. 278).

         In the Decision now vacated, the Magistrate Judge recited the history of this Court's treatment of lethal-injection-invalidity claims in habeas corpus which was based on its reading of the set of decisions by the Sixth Circuit in Stanley Adams' habeas corpus case from the Northern District of Ohio, Adams v. Bradshaw, 644 F.3d 481, 483 (6th Cir. 2011); Adams v. Bradshaw, 817 F.3d 284 (6th Cir. March 15, 2016); and Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306 (6th Cir. June 13, 2016), referred to herein as Adams I, Adams II, and Adams III respectively.

         In Adams I, the Sixth Circuit held, over Ohio's objection, that a challenge to a method of execution could be brought in habeas corpus as well as in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court followed Adams I until the Supreme Court decided Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726 (2015). In Glossip, Justice Alito interpreted Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573 (2006), as holding “a method of execution claim must be brought under § 1983 . . . .” 135 S.Ct. at 2738.

         After Glossip, this Court reversed course. Judge Frost put it succinctly: “This Court and other courts within this District have since relied on Adams in accepting the proposition that method-of-execution claims properly sound in habeas corpus. Glossip now undeniably upends that practice.” Henderson v. Warden, 136 F.Supp.3d 847, 851 (S.D. Ohio 2015).

         Then, in March 2016, came Adams II in which the Sixth Circuit held that “The Supreme Court's decision in Glossip does not alter our precedent.” 817 F.3d at 297. The State sought “clarification” of Adams II and the Sixth Circuit published Adams III in June 2016, again recognizing a category of lethal-injection-invalidity claims which could be brought in habeas. Offered a chance to clarify what it had meant in Glossip, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Adams III. Adams v. Jenkins, 137 S.Ct. 814, 196 L.Ed.2d 602 (2017). After certiorari was denied, the Sixth Circuit issued its mandate in Adams III and this Court understood it was back where it had been under Adams I in 2011, to wit, that there was a class of lethal injection invalidity claims which, if successful, would render a particular petitioner's death sentence invalid. It was on that reading of Adams III that the Magistrate Judge granted in part the instant Motion to Amend (ECF No. 275, PageID 3993).

         Campbell again changes the analysis. Interpreting Glossip, the circuit court held:

Glossip therefore closed the hypothetical door left open by Nelson, Hill, and Adams II. No longer can a method-of-execution claim impair a death sentence itself. And since a method-of-execution claim can no longer "attack the validity of the prisoner's conviction or death sentence, " a habeas court cannot act upon it. Id. at 2738.
Thus, the Glossip Court necessarily barred all habeas petitions challenging "a particular application of a particular protocol to a particular person" as unconstitutionally painful. InreTibbetts, 869 F.3d 403, 406 (6th Cir. 2017). These challenges are properly remedied by an injunction prohibiting the state from taking certain actions, rather than a writ of habeas corpus that vacates the sentence entirely.

Campbell, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21094 at *11-12 (emphasis in original). The Campbell court noted the language in Adams III on which capital petitioners and this Court have relied to justify pleading lethal-injection-invalidity claims in habeas and declared that language to be non-binding dictum. Id. at *15. It concluded further:

[T]o the extent that Adams III purported to permit Baze-style habeas claims that refuse to concede the possibility of an acceptable means of execution, it is not controlling. Since Glossip's holding directly addressed that question, it is binding on us, and we follow it today. In doing so, we do not intend to diminish the importance or correctness of the holding in Adams II that § 1983 and habeas are not mutually exclusive as a per se rule. All Baze and Glossip ...

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