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Travis v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 28, 2017

JAMES LEE TRAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Self-represented Petitioner James Lee Travis, who is currently confined at the Eastern Correctional Institution, has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 13, 2013, Travis was convicted after a bench trial of one count each of second degree rape, a second degree sex offense, a third degree sex offense, and second degree assault in the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland. He was acquitted of a fourth degree sex offense. The court sentenced Travis to 20 years of imprisonment, with 10 years suspended, and two years of probation.

         Travis appealed his conviction to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, raising the following issues:

1. Did the trial judge incorrectly interpret and apply the law in finding [Travis] guilty of second degree rape, second degree sex offense, and third degree sex offense?
2. Assuming, arguendo, that the trial judge did not incorrectly interpret and apply the law in finding [Travis] guilty of second degree rape, second degree sex offense, and third degree sex offense, did the trial judge render inconsistent verdicts when he found [Travis] guilty of second degree rape, second degree sex offense, third degree sex offense, and second degree assault, but not guilty of fourth degree sex offense, where all of those offenses required proof of lack of consent by the alleged victim?
3. Did the trial court err in rendering a verdict of "not guilty" of second degree sex offense and then changing his mind and finding [Travis] guilty of that offense?
4. Is the evidence insufficient to sustain the conviction?

Ans. Ex. 2 at 2, ECF No. 14-2. On August 26, 2014, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed, and the mandate was issued on September 25, 2014. Travis did not seek further review by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, so the judgments became final for direct appeal purposes on October 10, 2014, when the time period for filing a petition for a writ of certiorari expired. See Md. Rule 8-3 02(a) (requiring that a petition be filed in the Court of Appeals no later than 15 days after the Court of Special Appeals issues its mandate).

         On November 24, 2014, Travis filed a. pro se petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Worcester County. He raised three of the claims presented to the Court of Special Appeals, specifically that (1) the trial judge incorrectly applied the law of second degree rape, second degree sex offense, and third degree sex offense; (2) the trial judge erred in rendering a verdict of "not guilty" of a second degree sex offense and then changing his mind to find Travis guilty of that offense after all, in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Travis also asserted ineffective assistance of counsel based on the claim that his attorney had required him to accept a bench trial and had not allowed him to testify at trial. On April 16, 2015, Travis, through counsel, filed an amended petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel based on the claim that Travis's trial counsel had failed to file a timely motion to modify his sentence after Travis made a timely request.

         At the May 8, 2015 hearing on Travis's post-conviction petitions, defense counsel advised the court that an agreement had been reached by which Travis would withdraw his petition for post-conviction relief with prejudice in exchange for permission to file a belated motion for a modification of his sentence. The Circuit Court accepted the agreement, ordered the petitions withdrawn with prejudice, and instructed defense counsel to file the proposed motion. Defense counsel filed the motion on July 6, 2015, and the Circuit Court denied relief on July 23, 2015. Travis did not seek leave to appeal the Circuit Court's ruling on his postconviction petition. The deadline to do so passed 30 days later. See Md. Rule 8-204(b)(2) (providing that an application for leave to appeal shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which appeal is sought).

         On September 11, 2015, the Court received an undated letter from Travis in which he stated that he was incarcerated for a rape he did not commit. The Court construed the letter as a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to § 2254 and deemed it filed as of September 9, 2015, the date it was postmarked. See Houston v. Lack,487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988) (holding that pleadings filed by prisoners are deemed filed on the date the prisoner relinquishes control of the documents). Travis was instructed to ...


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