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Berry v. Stephenson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 6, 2018

DUANE LETROY BERRY, Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT STEPHENSON, Respondent.

         OPINION AND ORDER: (1) DISMISSING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, (3) DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL, AND (4) DENYING MOTION FOR HEARING AND ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Duane Letroy Berry (“Petitioner”), currently confined at the Midland County Jail, filed a pro se Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 dated January 12, 2018 while he was confined at the Wayne County Jail. Petitioner is being held as a pretrial detainee in People v. Berry, Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. Case No. 17-005237-01-FH, in which he is charged with malicious destruction of a building in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.3803. Prior to his current incarceration, Petitioner was in federal custody pending competency proceedings in United States v. Berry, E.D. Mich. Case No. 2:15-CR-20743, in which he is charged with perpetrating false information and hoaxes in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1038(a). In his pleadings, Petitioner challenges the State's authority to remove him from federal jurisdiction, as well as his continued confinement in state custody.

         The Court dismisses without prejudice the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, denies a certificate of appealability, and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         On April 13, 2018 Petitioner filed a Motion for Hearing and Issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus. That motion is denied as moot.

         II. Federal and State Proceedings

         On August 25, 2016, the federal district court conducted a competency hearing and found Petitioner incompetent to stand trial in his federal criminal case. The court ordered his civil commitment and hospitalization. United States v. Berry, E.D. Mich. Case No. 2:15-CR-20743. The court also conducted a second competency hearing to determine whether Petitioner's competency could be restored with medication and took the matter under advisement. On August 31, 2017, the court ordered the administration of medication with certain conditions. Id. The federal case remains pending.

         In the midst of his ongoing federal proceedings, Petitioner was transferred to state custody pursuant to a detainer.[1] After a preliminary examination, Petitioner was bound over for trial. The state trial court ordered that Petitioner be evaluated to determine his competency for trial and for criminal responsibility. The state court conducted a competency hearing on January 25, 2018 and set a review date for April 26, 2018. People v. Berry, Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. Case No. 17-005237-01-FH. As noted, Petitioner is currently confined at the Midland County Jail.

         III. Discussion

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases requires the Court to conduct a preliminarily review of a federal habeas case and to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” If, after initial consideration, the Court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court must summarily dismiss the petition. Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). Cases subject to dismissal under Rule 4 include those that raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999).

         A state pretrial detainee may bring a habeas action in federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to demand enforcement of the state's affirmative constitutional obligation to bring him promptly to trial or to raise double jeopardy issues, but may not generally seek habeas relief to forestall state prosecution altogether. Braden v. 30th Judicial Cir. Ct. of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 489-91 (1973); Christian v. Wellington, 739 F.3d 294, 298 (6th Cir. 2014). In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the United States Supreme Court held that, absent extraordinary circumstances, a federal court may not enjoin pending state criminal prosecutions. The rule is “designed to permit state courts to try state cases free from interference by federal courts, particularly where the party to the federal case may fully litigate his claim before the state court.” Zalman v. Armstrong, 802 F.2d 199, 205 (6th Cir. 1986) (internal quotations omitted).

         Thus, while 28 U.S.C. § 2241 establishes jurisdiction in the federal courts to consider pretrial habeas corpus petitions, the courts should abstain from the exercise of that jurisdiction if the issues raised in the petition may be resolved either by trial on the merits in the state courts or by other state procedures available to the petitioner. Christian, 739 F.3d at 298; Atkins v. People of the State of Michigan, 644 F.2d 543, 546 (6th Cir. 1981). A federal court must abstain from enjoining a state criminal proceeding if: (1) the state proceeding is ongoing; (2) an important state interest is implicated; and (3) the petitioner has an adequate opportunity in the state judicial proceeding to raise constitutional challenges. Middlesex Co. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982); Fieger v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 740, 744 (6th Cir. 1996).

         The three factors that support Younger abstention are present in this case. First, as acknowledged by Petitioner, there is an ongoing state criminal prosecution pending in the Wayne County Circuit Court. In that proceeding, the court arraigned Petitioner, conducted a competency hearing, and scheduled a review. Second, the state criminal proceedings involve important state interests. Cooper v. Parrish, 203 F.3d 937, 954 (6th Cir. 2000). Third, the state court proceedings provide an adequate opportunity for Petitioner to raise constitutional challenges. If he does - and the state trial court denies or ...


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