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Floyd v. Vannoy

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 22, 2017


         SECTION “R” (3)



         Before the Court are respondent's motion to stay the Court's May 8, 2017 Judgment and Order, [1] and petitioner John D. Floyd's motion for release pending appeal pursuant to Rule 23(c) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.[2] For the following reasons, the Court grants both motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court has already provided a full procedural and factual background to this case.[3] For the purposes of these motions, it is sufficient to recall that Floyd was convicted of second-degree murder in Louisiana state court in 1982. See State v. Floyd, 435 So.2d 992, 992 (La. 1983). Floyd filed an application for habeas corpus relief in state court on March 2, 2006, twenty-three years after the Louisiana Supreme Court finalized his conviction.[4] The Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans denied Floyd's petition from the bench.[5] Without assigning additional reasons, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Floyd's writ application. Floyd v. Cain, 62 So.3d 57 (La. 2011).

         At the conclusion of his post-conviction proceedings in state court, Floyd petitioned this Court for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[6]To overcome the untimeliness of his petition, Floyd argued that he was actually innocent of the murder of William Hines, and therefore his untimely petition could proceed under McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924 (2013). See Id. at 1928 (“[A]ctual innocence, if proved, serves as a gateway through which a petitioner may pass whether the impediment is a procedural bar . . . or, as in this case, expiration of the statute of limitations.”).

         On September 14, 2016, this Court-considering both old and new evidence-found that Floyd had preponderantly established that no reasonable juror would find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the murder of William Hines.[7] Floyd v. Cain, No. 11-2819, 2016 WL 4799093, at *2-3 (E.D. La. Sept. 14, 2016). Because the Court found that Floyd met the standard necessary to overcome the untimeliness of his habeas petition, the Court remanded his petition to the Magistrate Judge for an evaluation on the merits. Id. at 3.

         Floyd's original habeas petition asserted three bases for relief: (1) the State suppressed material, favorable evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); (2) the State destroyed evidence in violation of Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988); and (3) Floyd is entitled to habeas relief because he is actually innocent. In his Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Floyd's Brady claim be granted.[8] On May 8, 2017, the Court rejected the State's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and adopted the Recommendation as its opinion.[9] Floyd v. Vannoy, No. 11-2819, 2017 WL 1837676, at *1 (E.D. La. May 8, 2017). Accordingly, the Court granted Floyd's petition for habeas corpus relief and ordered the State of Louisiana to either retry Floyd or release him within 120 days of the Court's order. Id. at *16.

         On May 18, 2017, respondent Warden Vannoy, through the Orleans Parish District Attorney (“the State”), filed a notice of appeal of the Court's May 8 Order and Judgment.[10] Five days later, the State filed a motion to stay the Court's May 8 Order and Judgment pending the resolution of Vannoy's appeal.[11] On the same day, Floyd filed a motion to be released on his own recognizance while the State's appeal is pending under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 23(c).[12]

         The State initially opposed Floyd's motion for release, and Floyd opposed the State's motion for a stay pending appeal. On June 9, 2017, the State and Floyd notified the Court that they had reached an agreement.[13]More specifically, the State no longer opposes Floyd's release, provided that Floyd agrees to abide by certain conditions of supervision. In exchange, Floyd no longer opposes the State's motion to stay the Court's judgment pending appeal.[14] Thus, the parties agree that the Court's May 8 Order should be stayed pending the State's appeal, and that Floyd should be conditionally released on a personal recognizance bond while the State's appeal is pending.


         Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 23 establishes that “[w]hile a decision ordering the release of a prisoner [in a habeas corpus proceeding] is under review, the prisoner must-unless the court or judge rendering the decision, or the court of appeals, or the Supreme Court, or a judge or justice of either court orders otherwise-be released on personal recognizance, with or without surety.” As the Supreme Court has recognized, “Rule 23(c) undoubtedly creates a presumption of release from custody” in cases, such as here, where a federal court has granted a state prisoner habeas relief and ordered the state to either retry or release the petitioner. Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 774 (1987).[15] But Rule 23 acknowledges that this presumption may be overcome, id., and the Court in Hilton instructed reviewing courts to follow the “general standards for staying a civil judgment.” Id. at 775 (citations omitted). Accordingly, the relevant factors in considering both Floyd's and respondent's motions are the same. See, e.g., U.S. ex rel. Newman v. Rednour, 917 F.Supp.2d 765, 787 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (“Consideration of whether to grant a stay and whether to grant a successful habeas petitioner's motion for release on bond are both controlled by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 23(c) as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hilton.”); Pouncy v. Palmer, 168 F.Supp.3d 954, 958 (E.D. Mich. 2016) (noting that petitioner's motion for release and State's motion to stay are governed by same standards); Dassey v. Dittmann, No. 14-1310, 2016 WL 6684214, at *2 (E.D. Wis. Nov. 14, 2016). These factors are:

(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.

Hilton, 481 U.S. at 776 (citations omitted). Hilton also added that in reviewing these factors, courts should consider the possibility that the petitioner is a flight risk, the potential danger to the public if the petitioner is released, and the State's โ€œinterest in continuing custody and rehabilitation pending ...

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