United States District Court, D. Maryland
HAMMEL J. CLARK, Petitioner,
MS. TINA GERAGHTY, MS. LAURETTE PECK, WARDEN RICHARD J. GRAHAM and COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, Respondents.
THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Hammel J. Clark, a state inmate currently confined at the
Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”) in
Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging
the computation of his sentence. For the reasons set forth
below, the Petition will be DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE and
DISMISSED as unexhausted.
alleges that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and
Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) has improperly
calculated his sentence. He asserts that DPSCS officials have
added an additional 14 years to his 50-year sentence by
erroneously applying a consecutive sentence imposed by the
Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. In support of
his claim, Clark attached to the Petition two different
printouts from a DPSCS offender case management system that
contain conflicting calculations of his term of confinement.
The first printout, dated June 8, 2015, shows Clark as having
a total term of confinement of 50 years, 8 months, and 17
days, with a then-current release date of August 22, 2031,
and a maximum expiration date of January 10, 2042. In
contrast, the second printout, dated July 28, 2015, shows a
total term of confinement of 64 years, 4 months, and 13 days,
with a then-current release date of January 9, 2043, and a
maximum expiration date of September 6, 2055.
filed administrative complaints about the discrepancy in his
sentence calculation. In response, Clark was informed that
his sentence initially had been miscalculated by DPSCS
personnel. The sentence imposed in No. 03K07004551, a 20-year
term of confinement imposed on November 5, 2008 that was to
be consecutive to his “present sentence, ”
Sentence Calculation Worksheet at 2, ECF No. 8-6, was
initially designated as consecutive to the sentence imposed
in No. 103121039, a 20-year term of imprisonment imposed on
October 17, 2003. In fact, it should have been designated as
consecutive to the sentence imposed in No. 106362006, a
30-year term of imprisonment imposed on February 12, 2008, as
it was supposed to run consecutive to the expiration of the
last of all of the sentences that Clark was serving at the
time of imposition. This correction of the error, coupled
with Clark's earlier sentences imposed in 1990, 1992, and
2003, resulted in a total term of confinement of 64 years, 4
months, and 13 days.
Clark argues that the alleged miscalculation of his sentence
violates his rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution. He asserts that
it is unclear when his consecutive Baltimore County sentence
should begin, that any ambiguities should be resolved in his
favor, and that the failure to do so constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment. He further contends that, because the
alleged ambiguity was resolved in a manner that increased his
sentence, he has been given additional punishment without due
process of law.
filing his Reply, Clark was permitted to amend his Petition
to include a claim that he has not received all of the
diminution of confinement credits to which he is entitled.
Clark attaches documentation showing that he has earned in
excess of five diminution of confinement credits monthly.
Clark has also filed two motions that remain pending before
the Court. In the first, a “Motion to Have the Court to
do More to Find Plus Locate Defendants Dr. Blaik and Dr.
Graves [and] Motion for Appointment of Counsel”
(“Motion for Counsel”), he asks the Court to
assist him in locating defendants in a different case and to
appoint counsel to represent him in this case and other
cases. In the second, a “Motion for Relief to
Petitioner Freedom or and Prison Term” (“Motion
for Relief”), he restates the arguments in his Petition
and asks for this Court to correct his sentence.
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
argue that the Petition should be dismissed on the grounds
that (1) Clark has not alleged a violation of the United
States Constitution or federal law; (2) Clark failed to
exhaust his claims in Maryland courts; and (3) even if his
claims were properly before this Court, his contention that
his sentence has been improperly calculated is without merit.
entitled to federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241, Clark must raise a federal constitutional claim
regarding the calculation of his state prison sentence.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) (2012) (stating that
§ 2241 writ may issue when petitioner is “in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws . . . of the
United States”). Disputes over the legality of a state
sentence, which are calculated pursuant to state laws and
procedures, present a federal question only if they involve a
“fundamental defect which inherently results in a
complete miscarriage of justice” or “exceptional
circumstances where the need for the remedy afforded by the
writ of habeas corpus is apparent.” Hailey v.
Dorsey, 580 F.2d 112, 115 (4th Cir. 1978) (quoting
Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)).
Disputes over sentencing calculations rarely rise to this
level as they usually involve disagreements over the
interpretation of state statutes, and if a claim “rests
solely upon an interpretation of [state] case law and
statutes, it is simply not cognizable on federal habeas
review.” Wright v. Angelone, 151 F.3d 151, 157
(4th Cir. 1998); see Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67-68 (1991) (“[W]e reemphasize that it is not the
province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court
determinations on state-law questions.”); Smith v.
Moore, 137 F.3d 808, 822 (4th Cir. 1998) (refusing to
entertain a claim that a jury instruction misstated South
Carolina law); see also McCray v. Rosenblatt, No.
94-6097, 1994 WL 320212, at *1 (4th Cir. July 6, 1994) (per
curiam) (unpublished) (denying a challenge to Maryland's
recalculation of credits toward a state prison sentence
because it alleged only “a violation of state, not
therefore highly unlikely that Clark's Petition presents
a federal question. However, Clark has framed his argument in
terms of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and
unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's
guarantee of due process of law. Accordingly, out of an
abundance of caution, the Court will address the Petition.