United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
IVAN L.R. LEMELLE, District Judge.
Before the Court is pro se Petitioner Rayvell Finch's objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation pursuant to his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 claim for writ of habeas corpus.
Petitioner filed his original habeas claim on June 9, 2014. Respondent filed a response in opposition. Petitioner filed a traverse in response to Respondent's opposition. United States Magistrate Judge Wilkinson issued a Report and Recommendation on March 11, 2015, wherein it was recommended that the petition be denied and dismissed with prejudice. On March 24, 2015, Petitioner filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's ruling.
For the reasons enumerated below, the objections are overruled; the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is ADOPTED and Plaintiff's instant habeas corpus petition is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
I. State Court Procedural Background
The instant habeas petition arises out of Finch's incarceration at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. On February 13, 1997, Finch was arrested and charged with one count of possession of heroin. Finch was tried before a jury on July 10, 1997, and found guilty as charged. At his sentencing hearing on July 30, 1997, he was found to be a triple offender under La. Rev. Stat. § 15:529.1. Therefore, he was sentenced to the mandatory life in prison requirement under the statute, without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.
On direct appeal to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit, Petitioner asserted four errors: (1) the record was so incomplete as to render it useless for effective appellate review; (2) the trial court erred in failing to comply with the La. Rev. State. § 15:529.1 sentencing requirements; (3) the trial court erred in denying Finch's request for a mistrial after a State witness improperly alluded to other crimes evidence; and, (4) Finch's sentence was unconstitutionally excessive.
On February 24, 1999, the court of appeal affirmed the conviction and sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied both of the related writ applications on October 8, 1999. On February 11, 2000, Finch submitted an application for post-conviction relief. The application was denied by the trial court on March 13, 2000. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit of Appeal denied the related writ application on May 30, 2000. The Louisiana Supreme Court likewise denied his related writ application on March 23, 2001, without reasons.
Finch also filed four separate motions to correct an illegal sentence. The first was filed in the trial court on March 6, 2001. The motion was denied by the trial court on July 9, 2001. Finch then filed a motion for reconsideration of the issue in the trial court on August 15, 2001. Both the Louisiana Fourth Circuit and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied his related writ application, as well as his motion for reconsideration of the ruling on his sentence.
On September 13, 2004, Finch filed a second motion to correct an illegal sentence in the trial court, asserting that the State failed to prove Finch was a third felony offender. The trial court denied this motion on November 5, 2004, finding that the State had borne its burden of proof on the issue. The Fourth Circuit denied his related writ on January 14, 2005.
In 2011, Finch filed another motion to correct an illegal sentence based on an amendment to Louisiana law in 2006, which provided that the "Ameliorative Penalty Provisions" were to be applied retroactively. The Ameliorative Penalty Provisions went into effect on June 15, 2001, providing for more lenient provisions for certain crimes, and at that time the provisions were to be applied prospectively. In addition, the Louisiana Risk Review Panel was created to evaluate the risk of danger to society that each person convicted of a non-violent crime may present if released from confinement. In 2006, the legislature enacted La. Rev. Stat. § 15:308, which made the Ameliorative Penalty provisions apply retroactively, and stipulated that persons must apply to the Louisiana Risk Review Panel for relief. Shortly thereafter, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that a petitioner seeking to have his sentence amended under the new provisions must petition the Risk Review Panel.
On April 20, 2011, the trial court denied his motion, stating that the exclusive remedy for correcting a sentence under the new provisions was through the Louisiana Risk Review Panel. On June 21, 2011, the Fourth Circuit denied Finch's related writ application, agreeing that his exclusive remedy was through the Louisiana Risk Review Panel. The Louisiana Supreme Court also denied the related writ application on April 20, 2012.
In 2013, Finch filed his fourth motion to correct an illegal sentence, asserting that the multiple offender bill of information was defective, which the trial court denied on March 1, 2013. The trial court denied Finch's motion for amendment of sentence, which relied on new sentencing guidelines that were enacted retroactively, on the same day. The court stated that under Louisiana law, trial courts do not have the authority to amend sentences that have become ...