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Taylor v. Winn

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

June 13, 2019

TERRENCE LEE TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
THOMAS O. WINN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [1]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In 2001, Terrance Taylor was convicted of first-degree felony murder and other charges. He received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Taylor was 18 when he committed the murder.

         In 2018, Taylor filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Some of his claims raise what he says are errors of constitutional significance from his 2001 trial. Other claims rely on evidence he first discovered in 2007. And still others rest on more recent Eighth Amendment caselaw. But because Taylor's conviction became final in 2004 and he did nothing to challenge that conviction until, at the earliest, 2015, Taylor's petition is time barred.

         I.

         When Terrance Taylor was 18, he broke into the home of Crystal Agueros, his ex-girlfriend. Crystal was at home, along with her new boyfriend, Edward Arreguin, and Crystal's sister, Sarah. Taylor stabbed all three. Crystal and Sarah survived, but Edward did not.

         In time, Taylor was arrested, tried, and convicted. And because he was convicted of first-degree felony murder, among other things, Taylor received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1). Taylor appealed his sentence and conviction. In 2003, the state courts affirmed both. See People v. Taylor, No. 238559, 2003 WL 1919537 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2003); lv. den. 671 N.W.2d 52 (2003). Nearly 12 years later, Taylor moved for post-conviction relief in the state courts. And in 2018, Taylor petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. (ECF No. 1.)

         II.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act governs petitions for writs of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). AEDPA establishes a one-year limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). This period can start or restart at a few possible points in time. 28 U.S.C. 2244(d). The earliest the clock can start to tick is “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). However, the limitations period will restart on “the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(C). Likewise, the limitations period resets on the date when “the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D). In any event, no matter when the limitations period starts to run, if it runs out, AEDPA bars relief unless the petitioner lays out a basis for equitable tolling and actual innocence. Akrawi v. Booker, 572 F.3d 252, 260 (6th Cir. 2009).

         III.

         The parties spar over how and when Taylor's limitations period started to run. The Warden says § 2244(d)(1)(A) applies to all of Taylor's claims. This means Taylor's clock started in early 2004-90 days after the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal (which is the time for seeking review in the United States Supreme Court). That means Taylor had until early 2005 to timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus. But Taylor filed in 2018, and thus the Warden thinks the entirety of Taylor's petition is time barred.

         Taylor takes a different view. He raises eight claims, and he says § 2244(d)(1)(A) only applies to six of them. While he agrees those six are untimely, he blames the tardiness on his appellate counsel. As for his petition's remaining two claims, Taylor says § 2244(d)(1)(C) restarted the limitations period on one, and § 2244(d)(1)(D) restarted the period on the other. So Taylor says at least two of his claims are timely, and invites the Court to look past the tardiness of the other six.

         Taylor at least has the better of the argument on how to apply the statute of limitations. The claim-by-claim approach is proper. See Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 416 n.6 (2005); Bachman v. Bagley, 487 F.3d 979, 984 (6th Cir. 2007); Ege v. Yukins, 485 F.3d 364, 373-74 (6th Cir. 2007). Yet even applying a claim-by-claim approach, the entirety of Taylor's petition is still untimely.

         Consider, first, the six claims Taylor agrees are untimely under § 2244(d)(1)(A). He says his tardiness is really his appellate counsel's fault. The Court reads this as a request to equitably toll the limitations period. But habeas corpus petitioners are not entitled to counsel. See Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 555 (1987); see also § 2254(i). So blaming his tardiness on an attorney's errors is no basis for equitable tolling. See Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 336- 37 (2007) Cf. Winkfield v. Bagley, 66 Fed.Appx. 578, 583-84 (6th Cir. 2003) (petitioner was not entitled to equitable tolling of limitations period for filing federal habeas corpus petition, even though he alleged that his counsel failed to pursue direct appeal of his conviction in state court, where petitioner offered no explanation for the almost ten-year delay between his last communication with his attorney and the filing of his motion for leave to file delayed appeal in state court); Winters v. Edwards, 27 Fed.Appx. 327, 329 (6th Cir. 2001) (denying equitable tolling based on petitioner's claim that attorney failed to file direct appeal and trial court failed timely to appoint counsel, where petitioner waited over five years after conviction to file state collateral proceeding). At bottom, Taylor concedes he is 13 years late raising six of his claims, and he does not establish a basis for an equitable tolling of his limitations period on those claims.

         Next, Taylor says he has timely raised an Eighth Amendment claim. Taylor thinks recent Supreme Court precedent mandates he be resentenced. Back in 2012, the Supreme Court prohibited mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole for defendants who were under 18 years old when they committed their crimes. See Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012). And in 2016 Miller was made retroactive to cases on collateral review. See Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 732 (2016). And in 2018, Taylor says the Sixth Circuit, in In Re Lambert, No. 18-1726, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25332 (6th Cir. Sep. 5, 2018), extended Miller to include defendants like Taylor, who were 18 when they committed their crimes. ...


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