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Sneed v. Warden

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

April 25, 2018

CHARLES WAYNE SNEED, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN, Respondent

          S. MAURICE HICKS JR. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH H.L. PEREZ-MONTES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. § 2254) filed by pro se Petitioner Charles Wayne Sneed (“Sneed”) (#80145). Sneed is an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, incarcerated at the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana. Sneed claims that his due process rights are being violated by the failure of state authorities to grant him parole or to conduct a parole hearing.

         Because Sneed does not have a liberty interest in being granted parole, Sneed's petition should be denied and dismissed.

         I. Background

         Sneed was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. State v. Sneed, 316 So.2d 372, 374 (La. 1975). Sneed was 17 years old at the time of the offense. Id. Sneed alleges that he was ordered to serve the first 20 years of his sentence without the benefit of probation or parole. (Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 1-2, p. 6). Sneed complains that he served over 20 years of his sentence, but has been denied parole.

         In Sneed's most recent application for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the trial court in August of 2016, Sneed claimed that his parole eligibility created a liberty interest after he served 20 years of imprisonment. (Doc. 6-1, p. 16). In an effort to overcome the untimeliness of the application, Sneed relied on Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718, 732 (2016) (holding that the prohibition on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders addressed in Miller is a substantive rule that is retroactive in cases on collateral review). The trial court noted that Montgomery is not applicable because Sneed was not sentenced to life without the benefit of probation or parole. (Doc. 6-1, p. 17). Rather, Sneed's sentence included the possibility of parole after serving 20 years. The trial court dismissed Sneed's application as repetitive. (Doc. 6-1, p. 17).

         Sneed sought writs in the Louisiana Supreme Court, but writs were denied. State ex rel. Sneed v. State, 2016-1339 (La. 1/9/18), 232 So.3d 548.

         Sneed was considered for a commutation of sentence in 1994, which was denied. (Doc. 6-1, p. 17). Sneed was informed by the trial court that he must pursue his claims against the parole board in the 19th JDC. (Doc. 1-2, p. 21). Under Louisiana law, the 19th JDC has jurisdiction to consider complaints concerning parole eligibility. See La. R.S. 15:571.15. According to the Clerk of Court for the 19th JDC, Sneed has not file suit in that judicial district.

         Regardless, in denying writs, the Louisiana Supreme Court noted, “[w]ith the enactment of 2017 La. Acts, No. 280 § 3, including R.S. 15:574.4(H), relator's eligibility for parole consideration is no longer dependent upon a commutation of his sentence to a fixed term of years, but will instead be governed by the criteria set forth in R.S. 15:574.4(H).” State ex rel. Sneed v. State, 2016-1339 (La. 1/9/18), 232 So.3d 548. According to the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole, a parole hearing date is set for Sneed on July 9, 2018.[1]

         II. Law and Analysis A. Sneed cannot show that his custody is in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.

         A federal court may entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus from a person in state custody only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Trussell v. Estelle, 699 F.2d 256, 259 (5th Cir. 1983). Sneed cannot make such a showing. Sneed cites Greenholtz v. Inmates of Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979), and claims that the sentence imposed upon him promised parole, probation, or the suspension of sentence after serving 20 years.

         First, in Greenholtz, inmates from Nebraska filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that the Nebraska parole statutes and parole board procedures denied them procedural due process. The Supreme Court rejected the argument that the mere possibility of parole creates a conditional liberty interest that involves constitutional protection. Id. The Supreme Court found, however, that the Nebraska statute at issue did provide for automatic parole unless certain factors were found to exist. Thus, the Court concluded that the Nebraska statute created an expectancy of release that occasioned some constitutional protection. See Irving v. Thigpen, 732 F.2d 1215, 1216 (5th Cir. 1984) (citing Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 12). In reaching this conclusion, the Court emphasized the “unique structure and language” of the Nebraska statute, and mandated case-by-case evaluation of the statutes of the other states. Id. Thus, there is no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence. Id. A state may establish a parole system, but it has no duty to do so. See Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 7.

         Louisiana law has not created a liberty interest in parole that is protected by the Due Process clause. See Stevenson v. Louisiana Bd. Of Parole, 265 F.3d 1060 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Sinclair v. Ward, 205 F.3d 1338 (5th Cir. 1999) (Louisiana parole statutes do not give rise to a constitutionally protected liberty interest in parole release)). Louisiana prisoners may not challenge their parole procedures under the Due Process Clause. See Stevenson v. Louisiana Board of Parole, 265 F.3d 1060 (5th Cir. 2001). Inmates meeting standards contained in the law do have a statutory right to parole consideration, but the Parole Board has full discretion when ...


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