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Jones v. Morgan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 28, 2014

DUANE T. JONES #222-466 Petitioner,
v.
J. PHILIP MORGAN, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Duane Jones, an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC"), filed a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Jones, who is self-represented, alleges violations of due process, ex post facto, and equal protection arising from the way in which the Maryland Parole Commission ("Commission") has calculated his eligibility for parole. See ECF 1, as supplemented by ECF 3 ("Motion for Pleading"). He named as respondents the Warden of the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC") and the Attorney General of Maryland.

The instant petition, as supplemented, is not a model of clarity. Extrapolating from Jones's submissions, the State court pleadings, and respondents' brief, it appears that Jones complains as follows: (1) the Division of Correction improperly calculated his sentences by denying him 563 days' credit awarded by the sentencing court; (2) in determining Jones's eligibility for parole, the Commission wrongfully applied a new policy to him, in violation of due process and the ex post facto clause, by requiring him to first serve his 25-year non-parolable sentence day-for-day, without regard to diminution and pre-trial credits earned, before he is considered for parole; (3) the DOC incorrectly aggregated his consecutive sentences into a single term of confinement, thereby depriving him of the benefit of having his diminution credits applied to his individual sentences, presumably in violation of due process and the ex post facto clause; (4) the DOC failed to award him 180 days of good conduct and working credits that he had earned while he was in the custody of the Baltimore County Detention Center; (5) the DOC failed to credit him with 36 days awarded to him by the judge who sentenced him for violation of probation;[1] and (6) he was denied equal protection.

In their answer to the petition, ECF 9, respondents contend that the petition should be denied because Jones's allegations are time-barred and because Jones failed to exhaust his claims in the Maryland state courts. ECF 9. They also argue that the petition sets forth only violations of state law and that Jones's claims are substantively without merit. Id. In support of their answer, respondents attached about 23 exhibits.

Jones counters that his petition should not be deemed time-barred, implying that he would have sought federal relief sooner had he known that his state habeas corpus petition was not reviewable on appeal. ECF 11 at 2-3. Further, he contends that he attempted to exhaust his remedies prior to seeking federal relief by pursuing redress by way of state habeas corpus review. Id. at 3-4.

Procedural Background

On or about January 11, 1989, Jones was convicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of Daytime House Breaking and was sentenced to eight years' incarceration. See Case No. 88-Cr-1089.[2] On June 19, 1989, the court suspended the sentence, less time served, and placed the defendant on five years of probation. A bench warrant was issued on February 3, 1992, for violation of probation in 88-CR-1089. At a hearing on March 18, 1992, Jones was found guilty of a violation of probation. The Circuit Court for Baltimore County committed Jones to the DOC on that date (March 18, 1992), to serve eight years, with all but four years suspended, and credit for time served, commencing February 12, 1992. ECF 9-2. This four-year term of confinement carried a maximum expiration date of February 12, 1996. See Md. Code (2008 Repl. Vol.), Corr. Servs. Art. ("CS"), § 3-701(2); see also DOC Sentence Calculation Worksheet, ECF 9-3.

On October 16, 1992, while Jones was serving his four-year term of confinement, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County committed Jones to the DOC in Case 91-CR-1785, to serve 25 years without parole for Count Six (robbery). In the same case, the court also imposed a 20-year sentence, consecutive to the 25-year term of confinement, on Count Two (Rape, Second Degree), and a 20-year sentence on Count Four (sexual offense, second degree), concurrent with the sentence on Count Two. See Respondents' Exhibit 3 (ECF 9-4). The court directed that the 45-year term run consecutive to the four-year sentence imposed in Case 88-CR-1089, and awarded 563 days' credit for time spent in custody prior to sentencing, pursuant to the terms of an earlier version of Maryland law, i.e., Md. Code Ann., Art. 27, § 638C (now Crim. Proc. § 6-218(b)). ECF 9-4.

Respondents have described the method of calculation used to determine the amount of time Jones must serve pursuant to these sentences. To calculate Jones's obligations following the issuance of the consecutive 45-year aggregate sentence in Case 91-CR-1785, the DOC first deducted the 563 days' credit awarded by the court in that case from the maximum expiration date of the four-year sentence imposed in Case 88-CR-1089 (February 12, 1996), which yielded the date of July 29, 1994. The DOC then added the 45-year sentence to that date, resulting in a maximum expiration date of the term of confinement of July 29, 2039. ECF 9-3. Under those calculations, Jones is serving a term of confinement of 47 years and five months, beginning on February 12, 1992 and ending on July 29, 2039. Id.

In addition to 2, 842 days of good conduct credit, Jones has earned other diminution of confinement credits, [3] including 980 days of special project credits, 1014 days industrial credits, and 88 days of educational credits. Thus far, Jones has forfeited 80 good conduct credits for violating prison rules. ECF 9-5; see CS § 3-709. Additionally, Jones has been allowed 58 good conduct credits and 58 special project credits awarded during his custody at a local correctional facility. ECF 9-5; see CS §§ 11-503 to 11-506. In sum, Jones has received the benefit of a net total of 4, 960 diminution credits.

CS § 7-501(a) states: "[T]he Division...shall grant a conditional release from confinement to an inmate who...is serving a term of confinement of more than 18 months...[and] has served the term or terms, less diminution credit awarded under Title 3, Subtitle 7 and Title 11, Subtitle 5 of this article." Code of Maryland Regulations ("COMAR") 12.02.06.01B(11) defines "mandatory supervision release date" as "the date computed by subtracting the credits which are awarded pursuant to Correctional Services Article, Title 3, Subtitle 7, and Title 11, Subtitle 5, Annotated Code of Maryland, from the maximum expiration date." Based on these provisions, subtracting the total of 4, 960 diminution credits earned from the maximum expiration date of July 29, 2039, yields an anticipated mandatory supervision release date of December 29, 2025. ECF 9-5.

On March 17, 2009, Commission employee Ruth Ogle informed Jones that under CS § 7-301(b), he would become eligible for parole after serving the greater of one-fourth of his aggregate sentence of 47 years and five months (a little under twelve years) or a period equal to the term during which he was not eligible for parole (twenty-five years). ECF 9-6 (emphasis added). Noting that diminution credits do not affect parole eligibility, Ogle stated that Jones's parole eligibility date would arise in February of 2017, which is twenty-five years after February 12, 1992, the start date of his term of confinement. Id.

Jones disagreed with the Commission's calculations, arguing that he should become eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of his aggregate sentence and not, as the Commission intended, after he first completed his 25-year non-parolable term of confinement. On June 25, 2009, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County in Case 02-C-09-142045. ECF 9-8 and ECF 9-9. The case was transferred to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County and on September 30, 2010, was docketed as Case 03-C-10-011606. ECF 9-10 and ECF 9-11. On October 6, 2010, the petition was denied for failure to comply with the Maryland Rules governing habeas corpus. ECF 9-12. Petitioner noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. ECF 9-11.

On October 22, 2010, Jones filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, which he twice amended. Petition and amendments, ECF 9-13, 9-16 and 9-17. The petition was not opened as a new case but instead was docketed in the previous habeas matter Case 03-C-10-011606. A court-ordered response was filed on November 30, 2010. Order, ECF No. 9-15. On April 6, 2012, the petition was denied based on arguments set forth in the respondent's answer. Docket, ECF 9-11 and Order, ECF 9-18. Jones noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals on April 20, 2012. ECF 9-19. On November 29, 2012, the Court of Special Appeals dismissed Jones's first appeal as moot and not allowed by law. And, on the same date, it dismissed his second appeal. ECF 9-20 and ...


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