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White v. Wyche

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

February 19, 2019

ROLAND ALEXIS WHITE, II #100767/369939



          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge.


         Roland Alexis White, II (“Petitioner”) was arrested in Caddo Parish and charged with several drug and firearm crimes in state court. The judge set bail on seven charges in amounts ranging from $5, 000 to $15, 000. Petitioner filed a motion to reduce bond or be released on his own recognizance. The trial court denied the motion, and the state appellate courts declined to grant relief.

         Petitioner now seeks federal habeas corpus relief with respect to the amount of his bail. A review of the record shows that (1) Petitioner did not exhaust state court remedies with respect to a federal claim, (2) the excessive bail claim lacks merit, and (3) the petition is potentially moot because Petitioner has since been released on bail. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that his petition be denied.

         Relevant Facts

         A sheriff's deputy testified at a preliminary hearing that the cleaning staff at a motel entered a room to do a standard cleaning and found a large amount of marijuana. Police responded to the hotel and learned that Petitioner had the room booked for the next 20 days. The officers saw the marijuana in plain view, cleared the room, and obtained a search warrant. They executed the warrant and seized marijuana, scales, ammunition, cash, synthetic urine, and ecstasy from the room. They also found documents from the Office of Motor Vehicles and items of mail that had Petitioner's name on them.

         The motel staff reported that Petitioner could be found at the Diesel Driving Academy. The deputy testified that officers found Petitioner's vehicle parked at the academy. They saw two guns on the floorboard in plain view. They found a leather bag under the back seat, and it contained methamphetamine, ecstasy, ammunition, scales, marijuana, and Xanax. Petitioner admitted to purchasing the weapons and said that he had been driving the vehicle for a couple of months.

         Petitioner refused the appointment of counsel and elected to represent himself. He filed a number of motions, including a motion to reduce bond. Tr. 17. The judge took up the motion at the preliminary examination. Petitioner argued that he was not a flight risk, did not present a risk of danger to anyone, and was willing to undergo pretrial drug screening. He said that he had worked as a tax preparer for Liberty Tax, and he enrolled at the driving academy after tax season ended. He said that he would have finished the course in four weeks and obtained a job that paid $80, 000 a year had he not been arrested. Petitioner complained about his conditions of confinement at the local jail and argued that some of the police searches were unlawful. Tr. 105-110.

         The prosecutor responded that Petitioner's criminal history suggested he was a danger to society. He had a previous conviction of negligent homicide and two or three prior convictions for possession of marijuana. He was facing two firearms charges. Petitioner was adamant that he was not a danger to society based on the negligent homicide conviction because it had been an accidental killing of his cousin. He contended that he was “still allowed to purchase a weapon” and had owned a weapon despite the felony conviction for the negligent homicide of his cousin. The judge stated: “Okay. I agree with the State. Denied.” Tr. 106-12.

         Petitioner filed a writ application with the state appellate court. The court noted that Petitioner was seeking review of the trial court's denial of his motion to reduce bond and denied the writ, stating, “On the showing made, this Court's supervisory jurisdiction is not warranted.” Tr. 232. The Supreme Court of Louisiana denied a writ application without comment. Tr. 352.

         Standard of Review

         Most habeas petitions by state prisoners are presented pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which obligates the federal court to afford a great deal of deference to a state court adjudication. § 2254(d)(1). But the petitioner here is proceeding as a pretrial detainee with a petition governed by Section 2241. That statute does not contain a standard of review, but the Fifth Circuit and several other circuit courts have held that Section 2254(d) deference never applies to habeas petitions brought by pretrial detainees under Section 2241. Martinez v. Caldwell, 644 F.3rd 238, 242 (5th Cir. 2011); Christian v. Wellington, 739 F.3rd 294, 298 (6th Cir. 2014) (agreeing with the First, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits on the issue).

         The Fifth Circuit has recognized in a Section 2241 challenge that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of excessive bail is binding on the states. Simon v. Woodson, 454 F.2d 161, 165 (5th Cir. 1972). The Supreme Court has said that the determination of whether bail is excessive involves an assessment of whether the amount fixed is reasonably calculated to assure the presence of the accused at trial. Stack v. Boyle, 72 S.Ct. 1 (1951). “Thus, the only issue to be resolved by a federal court presented with a habeas corpus petition that complains of excessive bail is whether the sate judge has acted arbitrarily in setting that bail.” Simon, 454 F.2d at 165. See also U.S. ex rel. Garcia v. O'Grady, 812 F.2d 347, 355 (7th Cir. 1987); Jackson v. Circuit Court of Cook County, 2018 WL 6435654, *3 (N.D. Ill. 2018). The Fifth Circuit stated that any other rule would ...

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