Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rivera v. Humphrey

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

December 6, 2017

REINALDO JAVIER RIVERA, Petitioner,
v.
CARL HUMPHREY, Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE

         Presently before the Court are (1) Petitioner's first amended petition (doc. 41); (2) Petitioner's second motion to amend (doc. 71-1); and (3) Petitioner's motion to appoint supplemental counsel (doc. 78) . The Court DENIES three of the four new claims raised in Petitioner's first and second amended petitions. It also DENIES Petitioner's motion to appoint supplemental counsel.

         I. Procedural Background

         Petitioner filed his original petition on September 9, 2013. (Doc. 1.) It asserted six claims: (1) Petitioner's counsel at trial and on appeal was ineffective (id. at 5); (2) The prosecution committed misconduct that deprived Petitioner of a fair trial (id. at 17); (3) Jurors engaged in misconduct (id. at 23); (4) The trial court made errors and improper rulings which deprived Petitioner of a fair trial (id. at 25); (5) The trial court gave improper jury instructions at both the guilt and sentencing stage (id. at 31); and (6) Georgia imposes the death penalty arbitrarily and capriciously (id. at 33) . On September 19, 2014, this Court entered a scheduling order granting Petitioner thirty days "to file any Amendments to the Petition for Habeas Corpus." (Doc. 40 at 1.) Petitioner timely filed his first amended petition on October 20, 2014. (Doc. 41.) His first amended petition asserted two additional claims: (1) Petitioner's trial contained so many procedural and substantive errors that, cumulatively, they violated his right to a fair trial (id. at 33); and (2) Execution by lethal injection violates the Constitution (id. at 41) . Then, on August 9, 2016, Petitioner filed his second amended petition. (Doc. 71-1.) This petition added two final claims: (1) Petitioner is actually innocent of Marina Glista's murder (id. 71-1 at 18) and (2) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for reasons not enumerated in the original petition (id. at ¶ 15a) .

         After filing his second amended petition, Petitioner also filed a motion for supplemental counsel. (Doc. 78.) In the motion, Petitioner requests supplemental counsel to investigate the effectiveness of his state habeas counsel. Petitioner claims his state habeas counsel failed to properly investigate and pursue the ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim which he now raises in his second motion to amend. He requests supplemental counsel because his state habeas and current federal habeas counsel are the same and thus unable to properly investigate their own effectiveness. If his state habeas counsel was ineffective, Petitioner believes that it would excuse the procedural default which currently bars the Court from considering the new ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim he raises in his second amended petition.

         II. First and Second Amended Petitions

         The Court reviews both Petitioner's first and second amended Petitions.[1] In these petitions, Petitioner asserts four claims he did not assert in his original petition: (1) Cumulative errors violated his right to a fair trial (doc. 41 at 33); (2) Execution by lethal injection violates the Constitution (id. at 41); (3) Petitioner is actually innocent of the assault and murder of Marni Glista (doc. 71-1 at 18); and (4) Trial counsel provided ineffective assistance for reasons not listed in his original petition (doc. 71 at 2).

         The Court denies Petitioner's lethal injection claim because it violates the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") statute of limitations and, even if it didn't, it is not a cognizable claim in habeas proceedings. It denies Petitioner's actual-innocence claim because an actual-innocence claim is not cognizable under the United States Constitution. And it denies Petitioner's new ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims because they are procedurally defaulted. It does not, however, deny Petitioner's cumulative-error claim.

         1. Lethal-Injection Claim

         a. AEDPA Statute of Limitations

         Petitioner raises the lethal-injection claim in both his first and second amended petitions. The Court, however, denies Petitioner's request to add his lethal-injection claim because it is barred by the AEDPA statute of limitations. Under the AEDPA, state prisoners requesting habeas corpus relief must file their petition for relief within one year of (1) the final state ruling; (2) the date on which any impediment to filing an action was removed if the impediment was created by the State; (3) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was recognized or retroactively applied by the Supreme Court; or (4) "the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)-(D). Additionally, any claims added after the original petition must also be filed within the statute of limitations. If they are not, they must either relate back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 or be subject to some other exception.

         Petitioner has two applicable deadlines. The first deadline relates to Petitioner's final state-court ruling. The state-court ruling deadline was January 27, 2014. (See Doc. 86 at 7.) Petitioner filed his initial petition on September 9, 2013. (Doc. 1.) He filed his first and second amended petitions on October 20, 2014, and August 9, 2016, respectively. (Docs. 41 & 71.) Thus, although Petitioner's initial petition was timely, his first and second amended petitions violated the state-court filing deadline.

         The second deadline relates to the date on which the factual predicate for Petitioner's constitutional claim could be discovered. The latest factual predicate Petitioner relies on is a law signed by Governor Deal on July 1, 2013. (Doc. 71-1 at 44.) Petitioner, however, did not file his first amended petition until well over a year later - on October 20, 2014. Thus, Petitioner's first and second amended petitions violated the factual-predicate deadline as well, and his lethal-injection claim is untimely under the AEDPA.

         Because the new claims presented in Petitioner's first and second amended petitions violate the statute of limitations, the Court will not hear them absent an exception. See Day v. Crosby, 391 F.3d 1192, 1194 (11th Cir. 2004) (holding that a district court may sua sponte dismiss claims barred by the AEDPA statute of limitations because "[a] federal court that sits in collateral review of a criminal judgment of a state court has an obligation to enforce the federal state of limitations"). The Court now determines whether such an exception exists.

         The only exception applicable to Petitioner's claims is the "relation back" provision of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Rule 15(c) states that amended petitions are timely filed for purposes of the statute of limitations if they "relate back" to the original petition. See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 655 (2005) (applying Rule 15 to federal habeas proceedings) . A petition "relates back to the date of the original [petition] when: . . . (B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out -or attempted to be set out - in the original [petition]." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(B).

         The purpose of Rule 15(c) is to "prevent parties against whom claims are made from taking unjust advantage of otherwise inconsequential pleading errors to sustain a limitations defense." Advisory Committee's Note on 1991 Amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Rule 15 is not intended, however, "to be so broad as to allow an amended pleading to add an entirely new claim based on a different set of facts." Dean v. United States, 278 F.3d 1218, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). It allows parties to "correct technical deficiencies or expand facts alleged in the original pleading." Id. "[I]t does not permit an entirely different transaction to be alleged by amendment." Id.

         In deciding whether a claim relates back, the key words the Court must consider are "conduct, transaction, and occurrence." Mayle, 545 U.S. at 656. An amended petition arises out of the same "conduct, transaction, and occurrence" when "the original and amended petitions state claims that are tied to a common core of operative facts." Id. at 664. Thus, "in order to relate back, the untimely claim must have arisen from the 'same set of facts' as the timely filed claim, not from separate conduct or a separate occurrence in 'both time and type.'" Davenport v. United States, 217 F.3d 1341, 1344 (11th Cir. 2000)(citations omitted).

         Petitioner's new claim does not relate back to his original petition, because his original petition did not challenge Georgia's death-penalty procedure. Thus, Petitioner has no hook on which to claim the relation back exception, and this claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

         b. Non-Cognizable Claim

         The Court also denies Petitioner's lethal-injection claim because it is not cognizable in a habeas proceeding. Habeas cases govern the constitutionality of a prisoner's conviction or sentence. McNabb v. Comm'r Ala. Dept. of Corr., 727 F.3d 1334, 1344 (11th Cir. 2013) . They do not govern the circumstances of confinement or imposition of punishment. Id. Because execution procedures go to the conditions of confinement, and not the constitutionality of the conviction, "[a] § 1983 lawsuit, not a habeas proceeding, is the proper way to challenge lethal injection procedures/' Id.; see also Tompkins v. Sec'y, Dep't. of Corr., 557 F.3d 1257, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009). Petitioner's claim challenges the lethal-injection procedure, not the constitutionality of his conviction. Thus, it is not a cognizable habeas claim.

         2. Petitioner's Actual-Innocence Claim

         In his second amended petition, Petitioner asserts that he "is actually innocent of the assault and murder of Marni Glista." (Doc. 71-1 at 2.) Petitioner argues that "trial counsel ignored significantly exculpatory evidence" and "[h]ad such evidence been presented at [his] trial, no rational juror would have voted to convict [him] . . . ." (Id. at 21-22.) Petitioner then asserts, in a footnote at the end of his motion to amend, that "[a freestanding claim of actual innocence] is cognizable in habeas proceedings." (Doc. 71 at 10 n.3.)

         But the Supreme Court has never recognized a freestanding actual innocence claim. Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 400 (1993) ("Claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence have never been held to state a ground for federal habeas relief absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the underlying state criminal proceeding."). Neither has the Eleventh Circuit. See Mendoza v. Sec'y. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 659 Fed.Appx.. 974, 981 (11th Cir. 2016) ("[I]t remains an open question whether a freestanding actual innocence claim is even cognizable in a capital habeas case."). The Court therefore will not allow this claim to go forward.

         Additionally, this Court finds no basis in the Constitution for an actual innocence claim in federal habeas proceedings. "Federal habeas courts sit to ensure that individuals are not imprisoned in violation of the constitution - not to correct errors of fact." Herrera, 506 U.S. at 400. The state trial is the main event in criminal proceedings, and the "federal courts are not forums in which to relitigate [it]." Id. at 401. Indeed, "few rulings would be more disruptive of our federal system than to provide for federal habeas review of freestanding claims of actual innocence." Id. Thus, the Court agrees with the late Justice Scalia that "[t]here is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough) for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction, " id. at 427-28 (Scalia, J., concurring), and it dismisses Petitioner's freestanding actual innocence claim because it "is not a ground for relief on federal habeas corpus." Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 317 (1963).

         3. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner's new ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails because it is time barred by the AEDPA and because it is procedurally defaulted. The Court addresses the statute-of-limitations bar in this section. It addresses the procedural default issue ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.