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Vaughns v. State

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

February 8, 2018

JOHNNY L. VAUGHNS, Petitioner,
THE STATE, Respondent.



         Petitioner brings this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and seeks permission to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Upon initial review pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Petitioner's motion to proceed IFP be DENIED AS MOOT, (doc. no. 6), the petition be DISMISSED without prejudice, and this civil action be CLOSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 29, 2015, a jury in Richmond County Superior Court convicted Petitioner of aggravated sexual battery, rape, and three counts of child molestation.[1] The trial court sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment for the aggravated sexual battery and rape convictions and twenty years of imprisonment for each count of child molestation. Richmond Docket. On February 2, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion for new trial. Id. On November 9, 2016, the trial court denied Petitioner's motion for new trial but vacated his rape conviction. Id. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals on November 16, 2016. Id. Petitioner filed a second motion for new trial to the trial court on February 9, 2017, and a “motion for release pending direct appeal” on March 8, 2017. (Doc. no. 1, p. 5.) In March of 2017, the trial court denied his “motion for release pending appeal.” (Id. at 6.) Petitioner's second motion for new trial remains pending. Richmond Docket. On May 30, 2017, Petitioner moved the Court of Appeals to “‘reconsider bail or release' pending appeal.” (Doc. no. 1, p. 6.) Petitioner states, on June 22, 2017, the Court of Appeals “passed down a written Order thus improperly denying the appellant's valid motion, without a written explanation or remanding the case back to state court . . . .” (Id.) The docket for the Court of Appeals of Georgia indicates Petitioner's appeal regarding the motion for new trial remains pending.[2]

         Petitioner claims in the federal petition the Court of Appeals violated his “Due Process” rights by improperly denying his “motion to reconsider motion for release pending direct appeal.” (Id. at 1-3.) Petitioner argues the Court of Appeals erred, in part, by: (1) failing to remand his case back to the “district court”; (2) not providing a written statement of the basis for denying his order; and (3) incorrectly deciding not to release him pending appeal. (Id. at 7-13, 15.) Furthermore, Petitioner states “[t]he Court of Appeals failed to instruct the appellant of his right to appeal the denial of his motion within ten days to the federal court.” (Id. at 1.)

         Petitioner originally filed his case in the Northern District of Georgia, but United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman transferred the case to the Southern District of Georgia on January 4, 2018. (See doc. no. 2.)


         A. The Exhaustion Requirement

         Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, (“AEDPA”), and in accordance with the traditional exhaustion requirement, an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall not be granted unless it appears that the petitioner has exhausted the remedies available to him by any state court procedure. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(b)(1)(A) & (c). “An applicant shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State . . . if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented.” Id. § 2254(c) (emphasis added). A state inmate is deemed to have exhausted his state judicial remedies when he has given the state courts, or they have otherwise had, a fair opportunity to address the state inmate's federal claims. Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989). “In other words, the state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999).

         “A state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief cannot raise a federal constitutional claim in federal court unless he first properly raised the issue in the state courts.” Henderson v. Campbell, 353 F.3d 880, 891 (11th Cir. 2003). The exhaustion requirement applies with equal force to all constitutional claims. See Lucas v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 682 F.3d 1342, 1353-54 (11th Cir. 2012); see also Footman v. Singletary, 978 F.2d 1207, 1211 (11th Cir. 1992). “Ultimately, ‘to exhaust state remedies fully[, ] the petitioner must make the state court aware that the claims asserted present federal constitutional issues.'” Preston v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 785 F.3d 449, 457 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). However, an unexhausted claim is not procedurally defaulted unless the existence of a state procedural bar makes it evident that any future attempts at exhaustion would be futile. Gore v. Crews, 720 F.3d 811, 816 (11th Cir. 2013).

         “Generally, when a petitioner has failed to exhaust state remedies, the district court should dismiss the petition without prejudice to allow exhaustion.” Reedman v. Thomas, 305 Fed.Appx. 544, 546 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 519-20 (1982)). However, the exhaustion doctrine does not require a petitioner to seek collateral review in state courts of issues raised on direct appeal. Walker v. Zant, 693 F.2d 1087, 1088 (11th Cir. 1982). Moreover, in Georgia, a petitioner's “failure to apply for a certificate of probable cause to appeal the denial of his state habeas petition to the Georgia Supreme Court means that [the petitioner] has failed to exhaust all of his available state remedies.” Pope v. Rich, 358 F.3d 852, 853 (11th Cir. 2004).

         When a petitioner files a “mixed” petition, including both exhausted and unexhausted claims, a court has the option of issuing a stay and holding the petition in abeyance to allow the petitioner to return to the state court to exhaust his remedies as to the unexhausted claims. Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 275-77 (2005). However, the stay and abeyance procedure should only be used in limited circumstances when a court determines there was good cause for the petitioner's failure to exhaust his claims first in state court. Id. at 277. Petitioner has not presented any exhausted claims in the present petition, and therefore, the stay and abeyance procedure is inapplicable.

         B. Petitioner Failed to Exhaust State Remedies.

         Petitioner's complaint and the Court of Appeals' docket indicate Petitioner has a state proceeding pending. (Doc. no. 1.) Although it appears Petitioner's state proceeding concerns the denial of his motion for new trial, Petitioner claims he has also attempted to have the Court ...

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