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Pete v. Tanner

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 7, 2015



DANIEL E. KNOWLES, III, Magistrate Judge.

This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to conduct a hearing, including an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and as applicable, Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. Upon review of the entire record, the Court has determined that this matter can be disposed of without an evidentiary hearing. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2).[1] For the following reasons, it is recommended that the instant petition for habeas corpus relief be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

I. Procedural Background

The petitioner, Norman Pete, is incarcerated at the Rayburn Correctional Center in Angie, Louisiana.[2] On March 4, 2004, Pete was charged by felony bill of information with three charges: two counts of forcible rape pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 14:42.1, and one count of second-degree kidnapping pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 14:44.1.[3] On March 9, 2004, Pete pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.[4]

On September 8, 2004, Pete filed a motion for speedy trial under La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 701(A) in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.[5] On December 13, 2006, Pete renewed this speedy trial motion and the state trial court ordered his release.[6] However, Pete was never in fact released from custody.

On January 11, 2008, Pete filed a motion to quash the indictment based on the State's delay in bringing him to trial.[7] Three days later, Pete filed a second motion to quash, relating solely to the amendment of count three, the second-degree kidnapping charge.[8] The state trial court denied both motions.[9] On the same day, Pete pleaded guilty to all three counts.[10] In pleading guilty, Pete expressly reserved his right to seek appellate review of the trial court's denial of his initial motion to quash, pursuant to State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La. 1976).[11]

Pete received three sentences of twenty years to run concurrently in exchange for his guilty pleas.[12] The State filed an habitual offender bill of information, charging Pete as a second-felony offender pursuant to Louisiana's Habitual Offender Law.[13] A hearing on the multiple bill was set and reset a number of times and eventually continued without a date on July 28, 2008.[14]

On February 17, 2009, Pete filed with the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal an application for a writ of mandamus requesting an opportunity to appeal, dismissal of the multiple bill of information, and transfer of records.[15] The Fourth Circuit denied that application on May 8, 2009.[16]

During the pendency of that application, Pete filed an application for federal habeas corpus relief in this Court on April 14, 2009.[17] This Court dismissed that petition without prejudice on August 11, 2009, finding that Pete had failed to exhaust his state court remedies prior to seeking federal habeas corpus relief.[18]

After the dismissal of his federal petition, Pete eventually pleaded guilty to the multiple bill in the state trial court on January 20, 2011.[19] He was resentenced as a second-felony offender on all three counts to concurrent terms of twenty years.[20] Once again, Pete reserved his rights under Crosby to seek appellate review of the validity of the belated multiple bill proceedings.[21]

On March 20, 2013, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit affirmed Pete's convictions, and his habitual-offender sentence as to count one, but vacated the remaining habitual-offender sentences as errors patent and remanding for resentencing on those counts.[22] On May 3, 2013, the state trial court resentenced Pete on counts two and three to terms of twenty years each.[23]

Prior to his resentencing, on April 12, 2013, Pete filed an application for post-conviction relief in the state trial court.[24] In that application, he raised the following claims: (1) denial of a fair trial when the victim was present in court during the detective's preliminary examination; (2) trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to object to the victim's presence during the detective's testimony; (3) trial counsel conspired with the State to maintain his custody despite the court ordering his release; (4) denial of effective assistance of counsel, "based on the law"; (5) denial of a fair probable cause hearing; (6) denial of "court-ordered liberty without due process of the law"; (7) denial of his right to a speedy trial; and (8) denial of "statutory and procedural rights, based on the law."[25]

On April 30, 2013, the state trial court denied relief on the post-conviction relief application, finding Pete's claims lacked merit.[26] The Louisiana Fourth Circuit denied Pete's related writ application, finding no error in the state district court's judgment, on June 14, 2013.[27] The Louisiana Supreme Court also denied the related writ application without stated reasons, on January 17, 2014.[28]

On January 20, 2014, Pete filed a motion in this Court to reopen the federal habeas corpus proceedings, asserting that he had now exhausted his state court remedies regarding the claims.[29] On May 14, 2014, this Court granted Pete's motion.[30] In his petition, he raises four claims: (1) he was denied a fair trial because the victim heard the detective's testimony; (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) he was ordered released from custody, but he was not in fact released; and (4) he was denied his right to a speedy trial.[31]

In its response, the State conceded that the petition is timely, but argues that the claims are not properly exhausted and thus are procedurally defaulted, and alternatively, lack merit.[32] A district court may, in its discretion, deny relief on the merits regardless of whether or not the claims have been fully exhausted. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2); Jones v. Jones, 163 F.3d 285, 299 (5th Cir. 1999). Thus, this Court declines to address the State's arguments regarding exhaustion, and turns to address the merits.

II. Standards of Review

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") comprehensively overhauled federal habeas corpus legislation, including 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Amended subsections 2254(d)(1) and (2) contain revised standards of review for pure questions of fact, pure questions of law, and mixed questions of both. The amendments "modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 152 L.Ed.2d 914 (2002).

As to pure questions of fact, factual findings are presumed to be correct and a federal court will give deference to the state court's decision unless it "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)(2); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) ("In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be ...

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