854 F.3d 978 (8th Cir. 2017), 17-1822, Lee v. Hutchinson

Docket Nº:17-1822
Citation:854 F.3d 978
Opinion Judge:Per Curiam.
Party Name:Ledell Lee; Marcel Wayne Williams; Kenneth Dewayne Williams, Plaintiffs - Appellants, Bruce Earl Ward; Jason Farrell McGehee, Plaintiffs, Stacey Eugene Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant, Jack Harold Jones, Jr., Intervenor v. Asa Hutchinson, in his official capacity; Wendy Kelley, in her capacity as Director, Defendants - Appellees, Arkansas Department
Attorney:Ledell Lee, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Grady, AR. For Ledell Lee, Plaintiff - Appellant: Scott Braden, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Lee Deken Short, SHORT LAW FIRM, North Little Rock, AR. Marcel Wayne Williams, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pr...
Judge Panel:Before WOLLMAN, LOKEN, RILEY, COLLOTON, GRUENDER, BENTON, SHEPHERD, and KELLY, Circuit Judges. KELLY, Circuit Judge, dissenting. KELLY, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:April 20, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
SUMMARY

Four Arkansas death-row inmates appealed the denial of their motions for a preliminary injunction prohibiting their executions and moved the court for a stay of execution. The court concluded that, to the extent the inmates argued that Arkansas law, regulations, and policy during the clemency process violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, this argument failed under well-estab... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 978

854 F.3d 978 (8th Cir. 2017)

Ledell Lee; Marcel Wayne Williams; Kenneth Dewayne Williams, Plaintiffs - Appellants,

Bruce Earl Ward; Jason Farrell McGehee, Plaintiffs,

Stacey Eugene Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant,

Jack Harold Jones, Jr., Intervenor

v.

Asa Hutchinson, in his official capacity; Wendy Kelley, in her capacity as Director, Defendants - Appellees,

Arkansas Department of Correction; Arkansas Parole Board, Defendants,

John Felts, in his official capacity; John Belken, in his official capacity; Andy Shock, in his official capacity; Dawne B. Vandiver, in her official capacity; Jerry Riley, in his official capacity; Abraham Carpenter, Jr., in his official capacity; Lona McCastlain, in her official capacity, Defendants - Appellees

No. 17-1822

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 20, 2017

Submitted April 19, 2017

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock.

Ledell Lee, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Grady, AR.

For Ledell Lee, Plaintiff - Appellant: Scott Braden, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Lee Deken Short, SHORT LAW FIRM, North Little Rock, AR.

Marcel Wayne Williams, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Grady, AR.

For Marcel Wayne Williams, Plaintiff - Appellant: Scott Braden, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Jamie Giani, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Julie Vandiver, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR.

For Kenneth Dewayne Williams, Plaintiff - Appellant: Jeffrey M. Rosenzweig, Little Rock, AR.

Kenneth Dewayne Williams, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Grady, AR.

Stacey Eugene Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Grady, AR.

For Stacey Eugene Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Jeffrey M. Rosenzweig, Little Rock, AR.

For Asa Hutchinson, in his official capacity, Wendy Kelley, in her capacity as Director, John Felts, in his official capacity, John Belken, in his official capacity, Andy Shock, in his official capacity, Dawne B. Vandiver, in her official capacity, Jerry Riley, in his official capacity, Abraham Carpenter, Jr., in his official capacity, Lona McCastlain, in her official capacity, Defendants - Appellee: Nicholas Jacob Bronni, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Vincent P. France, Assistant Attorney General, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR; Gary L. Sullivan, Assistant Attorney General, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, Little Rock, AR.

Before WOLLMAN, LOKEN, RILEY, COLLOTON, GRUENDER, BENTON, SHEPHERD, and KELLY, Circuit Judges. KELLY, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

OPINION

Motion for Stay of Execution

Per Curiam.

Four Arkansas death-row inmates appeal the denial of their motions for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the execution and move this court for a stay of execution. For the reasons below, we deny this motion.

On February 27, 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled executions for eight inmates to take place over the course of eleven days in April 2017. Several weeks later, the inmates brought two consolidated challenges seeking to prevent their executions. In the first challenge, all eight inmates argued that the State's method of execution, by itself and in combination with the execution schedule, constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. We vacated the district court's order granting a preliminary injunction in that case. See McGehee v. Hutchinson, No. 17-1804, Id. (8th Cir. Apr. 17, 2017). In this second collective challenge, inmates Ledell Lee, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Jason McGehee, and Stacey Johnson challenged the application of the State's clemency procedure, arguing that the Arkansas Parole Board (" the Board" ) violated numerous Arkansas statutes, regulations, and policies and thereby violated their due process rights. This matter comes before us now.

After conducting a three-day hearing, the district court1 denied the State's motion to dismiss and also denied a motion for preliminary injunction brought by the inmates. As the inmates stress, the district court concluded that the clemency process was " at times imperfect" under Arkansas law, regulations, and policies, because (1) notice to stakeholders did not comply with statutory requirements; (2) the Board held hearings within thirty days of the execution date; (3) the clemency deadlines were moved forward, depriving inmates of several additional days to put their applications together; and (4) the clemency hearings were reduced from two hours to one hour. Notwithstanding these findings, however, the district court concluded that the clemency procedure still satisfied minimal due process and that there was insufficient evidence that the " imperfections, the deviations from procedure . . . made a real difference." Four of the six inmates appeal the denial of their motions for preliminary injunction, arguing that the Board's procedures violated their due process rights and made it functionally impossible for them to receive recommendations for clemency. The inmates also moved to stay their executions pending appeal. The judges in active service on this court voted to hear this motion initially en banc.

As we have previously explained, " a stay of execution is an equitable remedy. It is not available as a matter of right, and equity must be sensitive to the State's strong interest in enforcing its criminal judgments without undue interference from the federal courts." Johnson v. Lombardi, 809 F.3d 388, 390 (8th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 584, 126 S.Ct. 2096, 165 L.Ed.2d 44 (2006)). To prevail, inmates " must satisfy all of the requirements for a stay, including a showing of a significant possibility of success on the merits." Id. (quoting Hill, 547 U.S. at 584). " It is not enough merely to file an action that can proceed under § 1983. A movant must present evidence to show a significant possibility of success on the merits of his claim." Id. (citations omitted).

At the broadest level, the inmates assert that the violations of Arkansas law, regulations, and policy during the clemency process violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As an initial matter, we note that, to the extent the inmates argue that these irregularities themselves constitute a violation of their due process rights, this argument fails under well-established law. We agree with the Eleventh Circuit that adopting this argument would conflict with a long line of Supreme Court decisions holding that a violation of state procedural law does not itself give rise to a due process claim. See, e.g.,

Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 482, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995) (decrying the notion that a violation of state prison regulations provides a basis for a procedural due process claim because it " creates disincentives for States to codify prison management procedures" ); Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 250-51, 103 S.Ct. 1741, 75 L.Ed.2d 813 (1983) (explaining that " [p]rocess is not an end in itself" and holding that a State's creation of administrative procedures " does not create an independent substantive right" under the Due Process Clause); cf. Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 11, 64 S.Ct. 397, 88 L.Ed. 497 (1944) (" Mere violation of a state statute does not infringe the federal Constitution." ).

...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP