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Reed v. Sheldon

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

January 16, 2020

PAUL REED, Petitioner,
EDWARD SHELDON, Warden Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER, [RESOLVING DOCS. 1, 20 ]


         Petitioner Paul Reed petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1]

         For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES Petitioner's objections, ADOPTS the holding of the R&R, and DENIES Petitioner's request for a writ of habeas corpus.

         I. Background

         On April 26, 2014, Petitioner Reed and his girlfriend, Tiffany Powell, plotted to lure James Harris, the father of Powell's children, to a residence. After Harris came to the residence, he was beaten to death.[2]

         At the time of the murder victim James Harris exercised custody of his and Powell's children.

         To carry out her effort to get Harris to the house, Powell contacted a friend, Ro'ceeda Kelly, to help lure Harris to the home. A protection order forbade Harris's presence at the home and a protection order violation would arguably help Powell to regain custody.

         Reed drove Powell and Kelly to Harris's residence. Harris was not home, but Kelly told Harris's acquaintance at the home that she wanted to sell Harris a vehicle. Harris bought and sold used cars. Later Reed called Harris directly using a phone supplied by Reed and Powell. When Harris returned her call, Kelly told Harris to meet her at the Powell residence.

         Later that evening, Harris arrived at the residence with his son, who remained in the car. Kelly led Harris to the back entrance of the house and down the stairs to the basement. When Harris stepped from the stairwell into the basement Reed hit Harris in the face with a pole. Kelly ran out of the house.

         When police arrived at the scene, they discovered Harris's body. There was a gun near Harris's body and a detached magazine close by. The magazine had Harris's DNA on it. Both Kelly and Harris's son testified that they did not see Harris with a gun. Reed's hands had Harris's DNA on them.

         Harris's autopsy found blunt force trauma caused Harris's death. The Medical Examiner concluded that someone likely kneeled on Harris's back and beat his head into the ground. Harris did not have any defensive wounds consistent with mutual combat.

         On February 27, 2015, an Ohio state jury found Reed guilty of one count of murder and one count of complicity to commit murder.[3] The state court sentenced Reed to life imprisonment with no parole for fifteen years.[4]

         On April 13, 2015, Reed appealed his conviction in the Ohio Court of Appeals.[5] The state appellate court affirmed.[6]

         After the appellate court's decision, Petitioner Reed did not timely appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. After missing the time deadline to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, on October 14, 2016, Reed filed a pro se motion for leave to file a delayed appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.[7] On December 14, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court denied his motion.[8]

         Reed now brings a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254.[9] Magistrate Judge Parker issued a report and recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court deny Reed's petition.[10] Reed objects.[11]

         II. Discussion

         Because Petitioner has objected, the Court reviews the R&R de novo.[12]To succeed with his petition, Reed must show that his conviction resulted from an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law or an unreasonable factual determination.[13] This standard is challenging due to the highly deferential standard this Court must give to state-court rulings.[14]

         A. All of Petitioner's Claims Are Procedurally Defaulted.

         A petitioner procedurally defaults a claim by failing to “comply with state procedural rules.”[15] Reed properly appealed all his habeas grounds to the Ohio Court of Appeals but he procedurally defaulted his claims by failing to timely appeal the appellate court's decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.

         In deciding whether Reed's failure to comply with state procedural rules should be excused, the Court applies the four-part Maupin test.

         Under Maupin, the Court considers: (1) whether there is a state procedural rule that Petitioner Reed failed to comply with; (2) whether the state court enforced the rule in Reed's case; (3) whether the rule is an adequate and independent state ground for the state to foreclose review of a federal constitutional claim; and (4) if Reed did not comply with the state procedural rule and the rule was an adequate and independent state ground, whether Reed can show cause for failure to follow the rule and resulting prejudice.[16]

         Reed failed to comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's filing deadline, a procedural rule.[17] The Ohio Supreme Court enforced the rule by denying his motion for a delayed appeal. The Sixth Circuit has held that a denial by the Ohio Supreme Court is “an adequate ground to foreclose federal habeas review.”[18]

         To overcome the default, Petitioner Reed must show cause and prejudice.

         a. Petitioner Fails to Show Cause and Prejudice.

         Petitioner's objections to the R&R recite the same arguments for excusing his default as Reed briefed in Petitioner's Traverse-Reed says his appellate counsel did not inform him that his appeal was denied until eleven days afterward and did not notify him of the Ohio Supreme Court's filing deadline. He also says that his delay was caused in part by the difficulties of preparing his appeal while incarcerated.

         As an initial matter, the difficulties of pro se status cannot provide cause to overcome default.[19]

         Additionally, the Sixth Circuit applies a rebuttable presumption in cases where defendants claim counsel failed to notify them of an appeal's failure:

“[I]f the period of time between when the defendant learned of the decision and when he or she attempted to appeal the decision is greater than the period allotted by state law for the timely filing of an appeal-here, forty-five days--the defendant fails to demonstrate that he or she would have timely appealed the decision but for the counsel's deficient failure to notify the defendant of the decision.”[20]

         In this circumstance, there was a sixty-seven-day window between receiving notice of the Ohio Court of Appeals denial and Petitioner's filing his request for a delayed appeal.[21] This clearly exceeds the allotted forty-five day filing window. That Petitioner was ignorant of the forty-five-day rule is not an excuse.[22]

         Petitioner cannot show cause for his delay. In its absence, the Court need not consider whether ...

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