Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ellis v. Warden, Ross Correctional Institution

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

May 11, 2018

TERRILLE D. ELLIS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, ROSS CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Norah McCann King United States Magistrate Judge

         Petitioner, a state prisoner, brings this action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the Court on the Petition (Doc. 3), Respondent's Return of Writ (Doc. 20), and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals adopted the prosecution's summary of the facts of the case, as follows:

Early morning of November 20th, 2013, co-defendant by the name of Melanie Spears recruited Mr. Ellis and Mr. Derrick Robinson to commit a robbery of Shaun Fullen, S-H-A-U-N, Fullen, F-U-L- L-E-N. Throughout the day they planned this robbery. And in the evening, Melanie Spears was over at the home of Shaun Fullen here in Franklin County and had Mr. Ellis and Mr. Robinson enter the home under the guise that they were robbing Ms. Spears.
During the course of this, they had a confrontation in the bathroom with Shaun Fullen.
Terrille Ellis did fire one shot striking and killing Mr. Fullen. After they shot him, they ransacked the house, took cash and a number of firearms and fled the location. Mr. Fullen died as a proximate result of Mr. Ellis shooting him.

State v. Ellis, No. 14AP-912, 2015 WL 5011707, at *1, 2 (Ohio App. 10th Dist. Aug. 25, 2015).

Defendant-appellant, Terrille D. Ellis, appeals from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentencing him to a term of imprisonment of 23 years to life following his guilty plea to a charge of aggravated murder with a firearm specification. Ellis was indicted on charges of aggravated murder plus a firearm specification, aggravated burglary with a firearm specification, aggravated robbery with a firearm specification, and two counts of having a weapon while under a disability. After initially pleading not guilty to all charges, Ellis entered a plea of guilty to one count of aggravated murder with a firearm specification. At issue in this case is whether the trial court determined that Ellis understood the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty.
Ellis has assigned one error for this court's review:
The trial court erred in accepting Appellant's guilty plea in violation of Criminal Rule 11 and due process guarantees under the state and federal Constitutions.

Id. at *1. On August 25, 2015, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Id. On February 10, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction of the appeal. State v. Ellis, 144 Ohio St.3d 1478 (2016).

         Meanwhile, on September 15, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. (Doc. 5-1, PageID# 147).[1] The trial court denied that motion, id. (PageID# 153), and apparently Petitioner did not file an appeal from that decision. On September 22, 2015, Petitioner filed a second motion to withdraw his guilty plea, asserting that his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent or voluntary because he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Id. (PageID# 155-59). It does not appear that the trial court ruled on that motion. On June 9, 2017, Petitioner filed a third motion to withdraw his guilty plea, asserting that he had entered his guilty plea based on defense counsel's erroneous advice that Petitioner would be eligible for early release after serving 13 years. Id. (PageID# 164-68). On June 16, 2017, Petitioner filed a fourth motion to withdraw his guilty plea, again alleging that his attorney had materially misrepresented the amount of prison time that Petitioner would have to serve, and that his guilty plea was therefore not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Id. (PageID# 173-78). On June 27, 2017, the trial court denied that fourth motion. Id. (PageID# 181). On October 4, 2017, the appellate court sua sponte dismissed Petitioner's appeal from that denial, holding that Petitioner had failed to file a brief within the time required by Ohio App.R. 18(C) and had failed to respond to a notification from the appellate court that the time for filing the brief had expired. Journal Entry of Dismissal, (ECF No. 20-1, PageID# 302). On October 30, 2017, the appellate court ordered that Petitioner's motion for reconsideration be stricken from the file. Journal Entry (ECF No. 20-1, PageID# 315). On January 31, 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction of Petitioner's appeal. Entry (ECF No. 20-1, PageID# 326).

         Petitioner filed the Petition on May 12, 2017. He asserts that the trial court erred in accepting his guilty plea and thereby violated Ohio Criminal Rule 11 and notions of due process (claim one); and that his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent, or voluntary based on the ineffective assistance of counsel, because his attorney misinformed him that he would be eligible for early release after 13 years (claim two).

         Claim One

          In claim one, Petitioner alleges that the trial court violated due process and Ohio's Criminal Rule 11 when it accepted his guilty plea. Respondent contends that this claim should be dismissed because Petitioner failed to comply with Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, which requires that a petitioner specify the nature of his grounds for relief and state the facts in support of each ground. Habeas Rule 2(c) also authorizes the dismissal of a claim if the habeas court cannot determine from the petitioner's pleadings the exact errors of fact or law that the petitioner presents for adjudication. See Rice v. Warden, No. 1:14-cv-732, 2015 WL 5299421, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 9, 2015) (dismissal under Rule 2(c) is appropriate where the pleadings contain unintelligible and conclusory allegations and statements) (citations omitted). Accord v. Warden, Lebanon Corr. Inst., No. 2:12-cv-355, 2013 WL 228027, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 22, 2013) (although a federal court must liberally construe a pro se prisoner's pleadings, it is not required to “conjure allegations” on the petitioner's behalf) (citations omitted).

         Liberally construing Petitioner's pro se pleadings, as this Court is required to do, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (the allegations of a pro se complaint are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers), the Court is not persuaded that Petitioner's first claim should be dismissed for failure to comply with Rule 2. To the contrary, it appears that Petitioner raises the same issue in this claim that he did in the Ohio Court of Appeals, where he also alleged that the trial court failed to comply with Rule 11, and that his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent, or voluntary.

         Of course, to the extent that Petitioner raises a claim regarding the alleged violation of state law, this claim does not provide a basis for federal habeas corpus relief. A federal court may review a state prisoner's habeas petition only on the grounds that the challenged confinement is in violation of the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal court may not issue a writ of habeas corpus “on the basis of a perceived error of state law.” Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37, 41 (1984); Smith v. Sowders, 848 F.2d 735, 738 (6th Cir. 1988). A federal habeas court does not function as an additional state appellate court reviewing state courts' decisions on state law or procedure. Allen v. Morris, 845 F.2d 610, 614 (6th Cir. 1988). “‘[F]ederal courts must defer to a state court's interpretation of its own rules of evidence and procedure'” in considering a habeas petition. Id. (quoting Machin v. Wainwright, 758 F.2d 1431, 1433 (11th Cir. 1985)). It is only where the error resulted in the denial of fundamental fairness that habeas relief will be granted. Cooper v. Sowders, 837 F.2d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1988).

         That said, Petitioner argued in the state appellate court that his guilty plea was unconstitutional. See Brief of Appellant Terrille Ellis (ECF No. 5-1, PageID# 66-76). The state appellate court rejected that claim in relevant part as follows:

{¶ 7} At the plea hearing, the prosecutor presented the court with a two-page “Entry of Guilty Plea” form that had been signed by all parties as well as a three-page “Defendant's Agreement” executed by Ellis, his attorney, and the assistant prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor explained the plea agreement and the joint recommendation on the sentence, and the trial court engaged in the following colloquy with Ellis:
THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Ellis, I have a plea form here that says you're changing your plea to guilty to one count of aggravated murder with a three-year firearm specification and that the other two counts are being dismissed.
Are you voluntarily pleading guilty to aggravated murder with a firearm spec?
DEFENDANT ELLIS: Yes.
THE COURT: Are you aware when you enter a guilty plea, you allow me to find you guilty of that offense and proceed with the sentencing?
DEFENDANT ELLIS: Yes.
THE COURT: On aggravated murder, it would be possible to get all the way up to life without parole in addition to the three-year firearm spec and a fine up to $25, 000, are you aware of that?
DEFENDANT ELLIS: Yes.
THE COURT: When you enter a guilty plea, you give up your right to have a jury trial on these charges. You have a right to require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you're guilty of these offenses. You have a right to confront and cross-examine anyone who testifies against you. You'd have a right to issue subpoenas for any defense witnesses you might have. You'd have a right, if you went to trial, to remain silent throughout the proceedings, and then you could appeal if any court rulings ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.