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Stanley v. Frank Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 27, 2017

JOSEPH ZEGGORY STANLEY, JR., Petitioner,
v.
FRANK BISHOP and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         Petitioner Joseph Zeggory Stanley, Jr., seeks habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, attacking the constitutionality of his 2009 convictions in the Circuit Court for Caroline County, Maryland. (ECF No. 1). Respondents were ordered to file an answer to the Petition and have done so. (ECF No. 3). Stanley filed a reply. (ECF No. 5). This matter has been fully briefed. Upon review, the Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (concluding that petitioner not entitled to hearing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)). For reasons that follow, Stanley's Petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied and dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 28, 2009, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Caroline County, Stanley was found guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder, armed robbery, use of a handgun in commission of a crime of violence, first degree assault, and theft of $500 or more. (ECF No. 1 at 2; ECF No. 3-1 at 7-9, 14-15). He was sentenced on October 19, 2009 to life in prison and a consecutive term of fifteen years imprisonment. (ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF No. 3-1 at 15). Stanley filed a Notice of Appeal on October 20, 2009, alleging that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. (ECF No. 1 at 2; ECF No. 3-1 at 15; ECF No. 3-2 at 2, 8). In an unreported opinion filed on July 26, 2012, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed Stanley's judgments of conviction. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3; ECF No. 3-2). Stanley filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Court of Appeals of Maryland, which was denied in an order dated November 19, 2012. (ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 3-2 at 12). He did not seek further review by the United States Supreme Court, nor has he filed for post-conviction relief in the circuit court. (ECF No. 1 at 3).

         Stanly filed the present federal Petition on June 13, 2014, [1] again challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. (ECF No. 1). On August 1, 2014, Respondents filed a Limited Answer. (ECF No. 3). Pursuant to the Court's August 6, 2014, Order, Stanley filed a Response to the Limited Answer on August 22, 2014.[2] (ECF No. 4; ECF No. 5).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standards for Threshold Considerations

         1.Section 2254

         Section 2254 states that a district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         2. Statute of Limitations

         A one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions in non-capital cases for persons convicted in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1); Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545, 550 (2011). Section 2244(d)(1) provides that:

A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of--
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) 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; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

         Pursuant to § 2244(d)(2), “[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.” The limitation period may also be subject to equitable tolling in appropriate cases. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010); Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 329-30 (4th Cir. 2000).

         3. Exhaustion in State Court

         The exhaustion doctrine, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1), [3] “is principally designed to protect the state courts' role in the enforcement of federal law and prevent disruption of state judicial proceedings. Under our federal system, the federal and state courts [are] equally bound to guard and protect rights secured by the Constitution.” Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982) (alteration in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Moreover, “it would be unseemly in our dual system of government for a federal district court to upset a state court conviction without an opportunity to the state courts to correct a constitutional violation[.]” Id. Thus, the Rose Court cautioned litigants, “before you bring any claims to federal court, be sure that you first have taken each one to state court.” Id. at 520; see also O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 839 (1999) (“Federal habeas relief is available to state prisoners only after they have exhausted their claims in state court.”).

         A federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the state's adjudication on the merits: (1) “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or (2) “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A state adjudication is “contrary to” clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) where the state court “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law” or “confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to [the Supreme Court].” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). Under the “unreasonable application analysis, ” a “state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough. v Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). In other words, “a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because [it] concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010).

         Under section 2254(d)(2), “a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). “[E]ven if reasonable minds reviewing the record might disagree about the finding in question, ” a federal court may not conclude that the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Id. Further, “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct[, ]” and the petitioner bears “the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. Analysis

         Stanley alleges that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions. (ECF No. 1 at 5). Specifically, he argues that there was not sufficient evidence of agency with respect to him, no one identified him as the fleeing suspect, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder. (Id. at 6). Respondents contend that the Petition is time-barred and should be dismissed on that basis. (ECF No. 3 at 1-2, 4).

         The Court begins with the timeliness issue. As noted above, “[t]he federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) establishes a 1-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas corpus petition.” Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 410 (2005) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)). “That limitations period is tolled, however, while a ‘properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or ...


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