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Claude v. McCain

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 6, 2019


         SECTION: "J" (5)



         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). For the following reasons, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the petition for habeas corpus relief be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as untimely.

         Procedural History

         Petitioner, Jamal Claude, is a convicted inmate currently incarcerated at the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center in Cottonport, Louisiana.[1] In July 2012, he was indicted and initially pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.[2] In November 2012, a hearing was held on his motions to suppress identifications, statement and evidence.[3] The motions were denied. In May 2013, the trial court granted the State's request to use evidence of similar crimes, wrongs or acts related to an earlier aggravated battery.[4] He sought supervisory review of these rulings to no avail. On September 23, 2013, he agreed to plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter and obstruction of justice.[5] He was sentenced to terms of 40 years and 20 years respectively, to run concurrently. That same day, the State filed a multiple-offender bill of information charging him as a second-felony offender. Claude pleaded guilty to the multiple bill. The trial court vacated the original 40-year sentence and resentenced him as a second-felony offender to a term of 40 years' imprisonment.[6]

         There was no direct appeal proceeding from the guilty-plea conviction. On or about December 1, 2014, he submitted a motion for production of documents to the state district court. The record reflects that transcripts were provided to him.[7] He did not file an application for post-conviction relief with the state district court until May 9, 2017.[8] In that application, he claimed that trial counsel was ineffective for counseling him to enter a guilty plea when he failed to investigate fully and obtain evidence regarding the State's inability to prove that he was the shooter and for not preserving his appeal rights. On September 14, 2017, the state district court denied his application for post-conviction relief as untimely pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 930.8.[9] On October 17, 2017, Claude filed a supervisory writ application with the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. That application was denied on November 6, 2017.[10] The appellate court ruled that the district court did not err in its judgment finding the application for postconviction relief untimely. On November 29, 2017, Claude requested a rehearing with the court of appeal. By letter dated December 8, 2017, his motion was returned to him explaining that he was not entitled to a rehearing under Uniform Rule-Courts of Appeal, Rule 2-18.7.[11] On January 23, 2018, Claude filed a related supervisory writ application with the Louisiana Supreme Court.[12] On April 16, 2018, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a writ decision stating "Writ not considered," concluding that it was untimely filed pursuant to La. S.Ct. Rule X, § 5.[13]

         On May 20, 2018, Claude filed his federal application for habeas corpus relief in this Court. He raises the same ineffective assistance claims asserted in his post-conviction relief applications.[14] The State's response argues that the federal application is untimely and the claims are unexhausted and technically procedurally defaulted because he can no longer seek review in the state courts.[15] Claude filed an objection disputing the timeliness argument raised by the State.[16]


         A. Statute of Limitations

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") generally requires that a petitioner bring his Section 2254 claims within one (1) year of the date on which his underlying criminal judgment becomes "final." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).[17] With regard to finality, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained:

The statute of limitations for bringing a federal habeas petition challenging a state conviction begins to run on "the date on which the [state] judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). When a habeas petitioner has pursued relief on direct appeal through his state's highest court, his conviction becomes final ninety days after the highest court's judgment is entered, upon the expiration of time for filing an application for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. Roberts v. Cockrell, 319 F.3d 690, 693 (5th Cir. 2003). However, "[i]f the defendant stops the appeal process before that point, "... "the conviction becomes final when the time for seeking further direct review in the state court expires." Id. at 694; see also Foreman v. Dretke, 383 F.3d 336, 338 (5th Cir. 2004) (Section 2244(d)(1)(A) gives alternative routes for finalizing a conviction: either direct review is completed or the time to pursue direct review expires).
Although federal, not state, law determines when a judgment is final for federal habeas purposes, a necessary part of the finality inquiry is determining whether the petitioner is still able to seek further direct review. See Foreman, 383 F.3d at 338-39. As a result, this court looks to state law in determining how long a prisoner has to file a direct appeal. See Causey v. Cain, 450 F.3d 601, 606 (5th Cir. 2006); Roberts, 319 F.3d at 693.

Butler v. Cain, 533 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir. 2008).

         Claude pleaded guilty and was sentenced on September 23, 2013. His state criminal judgment became final, for federal limitations purposes, thirty days later, on October 23, 2013, because he did not seek reconsideration of the sentence or move to appeal.[18] Accordingly, the AEDPA one-year limitations period commenced on that date and expired one-year later, on October 23, 2014, unless that deadline was extended through tolling.

         B. Statutory Tolling

         The one-year limitations period is subject to statutory tolling for the time during which "a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). The docket master reflects that Claude filed nothing during the relevant one-year time-period (Oct. 23, 2013 through Oct. 23, 2014). Following his guilty plea and sentencing Claude filed a motion for production of documents in December 2014. However, that motion requesting transcripts or other documents is not considered an application "for State post- conviction or other collateral review," for tolling purposes. Rather, motions for production of documents are considered preliminary in nature and do not directly call into question the validity of a petitioner's conviction or sentence. Higginbotham v. Tanner, Civ. Action No. 10-1130, 2011 WL 3268128, at *l (E.D. La. July 29, 2011); Parker v. Cain, Civ. Action No. 02-0250, 2002 WL 922383, at *2 n. 22 (E.D. La. May 1, 2002), certificate of appealability denied, No. 03-30107 (5th Cir. June 23, 2003); Boyd v. Ward, Civ. Action No. 01-493, 2001 WL 533221, at *4 (E.D. La. May 15, 2001), certificate of appealability denied, No. 01-30651 (5th Cir. Aug. 22, 2001).

         Claude also filed an application for post-conviction relief in May 2017. However, by that time, the one-year federal limitations period had long since expired. Therefore, the post-conviction relief application could not possibly afford him any tolling benefit. See Madden v. Thaler, 521 Fed.Appx. 316, 320 (5th Cir. 2013); Scott v. Johnson, 227 F.3d 260, 263 (5th Cir. 2000); Magee v. Cain, Civ. Action No. 99-3867, 2000 WL 1023423, at *4, aff`d, 253 F.3d 702 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Williams v. Cain, Civ. Action No. 00-536, 2000 WL 863132, at *2 (E.D. La. June 27, 2000)). Simply put, once the federal limitations period expired, "[t]here was nothingto toll." Butler, 533 F.3d at 318. Therefore, Claude is not entitled to statutory tolling credit pursuant to Section 2244(d)(2).

         C. ...

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