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Carlton v. Harris

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 15, 2017

SHAE HARRIS, Respondent.


          Benita Y. Pearson United States District Judge

         Pro se Petitioner DeJuan Anthony Carlton filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies the petition.

         I. Background

         Petitioner is currently incarcerated in the Warren Correctional Institution, having been convicted of aggravated murder in 2011 in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. Petitioner is serving a sentence of twenty-three years to life in prison. The Ohio Court of Appeals denied his Motion for Leave to File a Delayed Appeal in 2016. Petitioner filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, but it was dismissed without prejudice as improperly filed under § 2241 rather than § 2254. He refiled his Petition under § 2254, and that Petition is now before the Court. Petitioner asserts his conviction is invalid because the Judge did not sign the conviction and sentencing journal entry. He seeks release from prison.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254, was signed into law on April 24, 1996 and applies to Habeas Corpus Petitions filed after that effective date. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997); see Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 210 (2003); Barker v. Yukins, 199 F.3d 867, 871 (6th Cir. 1999). Congress enacted the AEDPA “to reduce delays in the execution of state and federal criminal sentences, and ‘to further the principles of comity, finality, and federalism.'” Woodford, 538 U.S. at 206 (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 436 (2000)). Consistent with this goal, when reviewing an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court, a factual determinations by the state court carry a presumption of correctness. Wilkins v. Timmerman-Cooper, 512 F.3d 768, 774-76 (6th Cir. 2008). The petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A federal court, therefore, may not grant habeas relief on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in any state court unless the adjudication of the claim either: “(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Wilkins, 512 F.3d at 774 -76.

         A decision is contrary to clearly established law under § 2254(d)(1) when it is “diametrically different, opposite in character or nature, or mutually opposed” to federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405. In order to have an “unreasonable application of ... clearly established Federal law, ” the state court decision must be “objectively unreasonable, ” not merely erroneous or incorrect. Id. at 409. Furthermore, it must be contrary to holdings of the Supreme Court, as opposed to dicta. Id. at 415.

         A state court's determination of fact will be unreasonable under § 2254(d)(2) only if it represents a “clear factual error.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 528-29 (2003). In other words, a state court's determination of facts is unreasonable if its finding conflict with clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Id. “This standard requires the federal courts to give considerable deference to state-court decisions.” Ferensic v. Birkett, 501 F.3d 469, 472 (6th Cir. 2007). AEDPA essentially requires federal courts to leave a state court judgment alone unless the judgment in place is “based on an error grave enough to be called ‘unreasonable.'” Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1135 (6th Cir.1998).

         III. Procedural Barriers to Habeas Review

         Before a federal court will review the merits of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a Petitioner must overcome several procedural hurdles. Specifically, the petitioner must surmount the barriers of exhaustion, procedural default, and time limitation.

         As a general rule, a state prisoner must exhaust all possible state remedies or have no remaining state remedies before a federal court will review a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c); see Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27 (2004). Exhaustion is fulfilled once a state supreme court provides a convicted defendant a full and fair opportunity to review his or her claims on the merits. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999); Rust v. Zent, 17 F.3d 155, 160 (6th Cir. 1994); Manning v. Alexander, 912 F.2d 878, 881 (6th Cir. 1990).

         To be properly exhausted, each claim must have been “fairly presented” to the state courts. See e.g. Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 414 (6th Cir. 2009); Frazier v. Huffman, 343 F.3d 780, 797 (6th Cir. 2003). Fair presentation requires that the state courts be given the opportunity to see both the factual and legal basis for each claim. Wagner, 581 F.3d at 414. Indeed, in determining whether a petitioner “fairly presented” a federal constitutional claim to the state courts, courts should consider whether the petitioner (1) phrased the federal claim in terms of the pertinent constitutional law or in terms sufficiently particular to allege a denial of the specific constitutional right in question; (2) relied upon federal cases employing the constitutional analysis in question; (3) relied upon state cases employing the federal constitutional analysis in question; or (4) alleged facts well within the mainstream of [the pertinent] constitutional law.” See Hicks v. Straub, 377 F.3d 538, 553 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted) abrogated on other grounds by Peoples v. Lafler, 734 F.3d 503 (6th Cir. 2013). For the claim to be exhausted, it must be presented to the state courts as a federal constitutional issue, not merely as an issue arising under state law. Koontz v. Glossa, 731 F.2d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1984). Moreover, the claim must be presented to the state courts under the same legal theory in which it is later presented in federal court. Wong v. Money, 142 F.3d 313, 322 (6th Cir. 1998). It cannot rest on a legal theory separate and distinct from the one previously considered and rejected in state court. Id. This does not mean that the applicant must recite “chapter and verse” of constitutional law, but the applicant is required to make a specific showing of the alleged claim. Wagner, 581 F.3d at 414.

         The procedural default doctrine serves to bar review of federal claims that a state court has declined to address because the Petitioner did not comply with a state procedural requirement. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87 (1977). In these cases, the state judgment is not based on a resolution of federal constitutional law, but instead “rests on independent and adequate state procedural grounds.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 730 (1991). When the last explained state court decision rests upon procedural default as an “alternative ground, ” a federal district court is not required to reach the merits of a habeas petition. McBee v. Abramajtys, 929 F.2d 264, 265 (6th Cir. 1991). In determining whether a state court has addressed the merits of a petitioner's claim, federal courts must rely upon the presumption that there is no independent and adequate state procedural grounds for a state court decision absent a clear statement to the contrary. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 735.

         To determine if a claim is procedurally defaulted the court must determine whether: (1) there is a state procedural rule that is applicable to the petitioner's claim and that the petitioner failed to comply with the rule; (2) the state courts actually enforced the state procedural sanction; and (3) the state procedural forfeiture is an adequate and independent state ground upon which the state can rely to foreclose review of a federal constitutional claim. See Maupin v. Smith, 785 F.2d 135, 138 (6th Cir. 1986). A claim that is procedurally defaulted in state court will not be reviewed by a federal court unless a petitioner can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or can demonstrate that failure to consider the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 751. “Cause” is a legitimate excuse for the default, and “prejudice” is actual harm resulting ...

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