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Gates v. Parish

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

May 21, 2019

JASON EUGENE GATES, Petitioner,
v.
LES PARISH, Respondent.

          OPINION

          Janet T. Neff United States District Judge

         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition 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.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see 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). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court will dismiss the petition without prejudice for failure to exhaust available state-court remedies.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

          Petitioner Jason Eugene Gates is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF) in Manistee, Michigan. Following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AGBH), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84, and felony firearm, second offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.[1] On April 18, 2017, the court sentenced Petitioner to a sentence of 4 years, 2 months to 10 years for AGBH consecutive to a sentence of 5 years for felony firearm-second offense. (J. of Sentence, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.11.)

         On April 4, 2019, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition. Under Sixth Circuit precedent, the application is deemed filed when handed to prison authorities for mailing to the federal court. Cook v. Stegall, 295 F.3d 517, 521 (6th Cir. 2002). Petitioner placed his petition in the prison mailing system on April 4, 2019. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.)

         The petition raises one ground for relief: there was insufficient evidence to permit a jury to find Petitioner guilty of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.2-3.) Petitioner, by way of a motion for stay, notes his intention to raise two additional issues: ineffective assistance of trial counsel and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. (ECF No. 2.)

         The Court construes Petitioner's motion for stay first as a motion to amend his petition to add the issues regarding ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. Petitioner may amend the petition once as a matter of course, without permission of the trial court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), made applicable to habeas actions by 28 U.S.C. § 2242. Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644 (2005). Accordingly, the Court will consider the issues Petitioner intends to raise in the state court as part of the petition.

         II. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies

         Before the Court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner, the prisoner must exhaust remedies available in the state courts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). Exhaustion requires a petitioner to “fairly present” federal claims so that state courts have a “fair opportunity” to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing upon a petitioner's constitutional claim. Id. at 844, 848; see also Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275-77 (1971); Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995); Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 6 (1982). To fulfill the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must have fairly presented his federal claims to all levels of the state appellate system, including the state's highest court. O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845; Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 414 (6th Cir. 2009); Hafley v. Sowders, 902 F.2d 480, 483 (6th Cir. 1990). The district court can and must raise the exhaustion issue sua sponte when it clearly appears that habeas claims have not been presented to the state courts. See Prather v. Rees, 822 F.2d 1418, 1422 (6th Cir. 1987); Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 138-39 (6th Cir. 1970).

         Petitioner bears the burden of showing exhaustion. See Rust v. Zent, 17 F.3d 155, 160 (6th Cir. 1994). Petitioner alleges that he raised his insufficient evidence claim in the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. Petitioner acknowledges, however, that he has not raised his ineffective assistance claims in either Michigan appellate court. Indeed, he seeks a stay of these proceedings so that he might return to the Wayne County Circuit Court and raise these issues for the first time by way of a motion for relief from judgment under Michigan Court Rule 6.500 et seq.

         An applicant has not exhausted available state remedies if he has the right under state law to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c). Petitioner has at least one available procedure by which to raise the issues he has presented in this application. He may file a motion for relief from judgment under Mich. Ct. R. 6.500 et seq. Under Michigan law, one such motion may be filed after August 1, 1995. Mich. Ct. R. 6.502(G)(1). Petitioner has not yet filed his one allotted motion. Therefore, the Court concludes that he has at least one available state remedy. To properly exhaust his ineffective assistance claims, Petitioner must file a motion for relief from judgment in the Wayne County Circuit Court. If his motion is denied by the circuit court, Petitioner must appeal that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845; Hafley, 902 F.2d at 483 (“‘[P]etitioner cannot be deemed to have exhausted his state court remedies as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c) as to any issue, unless he has presented that issue both to the Michigan Court of Appeals and to the Michigan Supreme Court.'”) (citation omitted).

         Because Petitioner has one claim that is exhausted and two that are not, his petition is “mixed.” Under Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 522 (1982), district courts are directed to dismiss mixed petitions without prejudice in order to allow petitioners to return to state court to exhaust remedies. However, since the habeas statute was amended to impose a one-year statute of limitations on habeas claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), dismissal without prejudice often effectively precludes future federal habeas review. This is particularly true after the Supreme Court ruled in Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 181-82 (2001), that the limitations period is not tolled during the pendency of a federal habeas petition. As a result, the Sixth Circuit adopted a stay-and-abeyance procedure to be applied to mixed petitions. See Palmer v. Carlton, 276 F.3d 777, 781 (6th Cir. 2002). In Palmer, the Sixth Circuit held that when the dismissal of a mixed petition could jeopardize the timeliness of a subsequent petition, the district court should dismiss only the unexhausted claims and stay further proceedings on the remaining portion until the petitioner has exhausted his claims in the state court. Id.; see also Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 277 (2007) (approving stay-and-abeyance procedure); Griffin v. Rogers, 308 F.3d 647, 652 n.1 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Petitioner's application is subject to the one-year statute of limitations provided in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Under that provision, the one-year limitations period runs from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court denied his application on February 4, 2019. Petitioner did not petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, though the ninety-day period in which he could have sought review in the United States Supreme Court is counted under § 2244(d)(1)(A). See Bronaugh v. Ohio, 235 F.3d 280, 283 (6th Cir. 2000). The ninety-day period expired on May 5, 2019. Accordingly, absent tolling, Petitioner would have one year, ...


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