Crawford v. Mississippi, No. 1:18CV212-SA-RP

CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtSharion Aycock U. S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Docket NumberNo. 1:18CV212-SA-RP
Decision Date17 March 2020


No. 1:18CV212-SA-RP


March 17, 2020


This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of Tedra Crawford for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has moved to dismiss the petition as procedurally defaulted and for failure to exhaust state remedies. Crawford has responded to the motion, and the State has replied. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the State's motion to dismiss will be granted, and the petition will be dismissed under the doctrine of procedural default and for failure to exhaust state remedies.

Habeas Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

The writ of habeas corpus, a challenge to the legal authority under which a person may be detained, is ancient. Duker, The English Origins of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: A Peculiar Path to Fame, 53 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 983 (1978); Glass, Historical Aspects of Habeas Corpus, 9 St. John's L.Rev. 55 (1934). It is "perhaps the most important writ known to the constitutional law of England," Secretary of State for Home Affairs v. O'Brien, A.C. 603, 609 (1923), and it is equally significant in the United States. Article I, § 9, of the Constitution ensures that the right of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, except when, in the case of rebellion or invasion, public safety may require it. Habeas Corpus, 20 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Deskbook § 56. Its use by the federal courts was authorized in Section14 of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Habeas

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corpus principles developed over time in both English and American common law have since been codified:

The statutory provisions on habeas corpus appear as sections 2241 to 2255 of the 1948 Judicial Code. The recodification of that year set out important procedural limitations and additional procedural changes were added in 1966. The scope of the writ, insofar as the statutory language is concerned, remained essentially the same, however, until 1996, when Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, placing severe restrictions on the issuance of the writ for state prisoners and setting out special, new habeas corpus procedures for capital cases. The changes made by the 1996 legislation are the end product of decades of debate about habeas corpus.

Id. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a federal court may issue the writ when a person is held in violation of the federal Constitution or laws, permitting a federal court to order the discharge of any person held by a state in violation of the supreme law of the land. Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 311, 35 S. Ct. 582, 588, 59 L. Ed. 969 (1915).

Facts and Procedural Posture

On November 21, 2017, Crawford pled guilty to robbery in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court, Cause No. 2016-0133-CRH. Exhibit A1 (Plea Petition); Exhibit B (Transcript). The circuit court sentenced Crawford to serve fifteen (15) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with five years suspended and an additional five years of post-release supervision. Exhibit C (Sentencing Order); see also Exhibit B. As such, Crawford is currently lawfully in the custody of the MDOC and housed at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi.

In the instant petition Crawford argues that she has "an extensive mental health record" and "was supposed to be taking medication [at] the time and was not fully aware of the situation

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that was happening [at] the time." ECF doc. 1, p. 6. In her "Post-Conviction Relief Motion for Sentence Reconsideration," which was docketed in this matter as a "Supplement" to her Petition, Crawford further states that she "suffers from severe and debilitating mental illness[es] which includes documented schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and other disassociative diagnosis." ECF doc. 8, p. 4.

Ms. Crawford states that she could not have given a willing, knowing, voluntary, or intelligent plea. Id. She also alleges ineffective assistance of counsel for her trial counsel's alleged failure to "properly notify the District Attorney's office, and the court, to how severe the Petitioner's diagnosis is." Id. She requests that the court examine her sentence and consider referring her for drug therapy and mental health counseling. Id. at 5.

Ms. Crawford sent a letter, dated August 9, 2018, to the circuit court judge requesting parole consideration, which was stamped as "filed" in the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court on August 31, 2018. The circuit court denied that request on October 16, 2018. Exhibit D (Letter and Order). Ms. Crawford then signed her "Post-Conviction Relief Motion for Sentence Reconsideration" (the "PCR motion") on November 30, 2018, which was stamped as "filed" on December 27, 2018, in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Cause No. 2018-0375-CVH. Exhibit E (PCR motion and Docket). In the PCR application, Ms. Crawford raised similar issues to those she raises in the instant petition, including claims regarding her competence to plead guilty and counsel's decision not to raise before the court the issue of her severe mental state. Id. The circuit court dismissed Crawford's PCR motion, without a hearing, in an Order dated February 11, 2019, holding her claims to be without merit and noting that the "[c]ourt held a competency hearing at which the Petitioner was found competent to stand trial. In making this determination,

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the [c]ourt considered a report from the State Mental Hospital[.]" Exhibit F. Ms. Crawford did not file a notice of appeal (see Exhibit E), and the Mississippi Supreme Court's docket, as available on that court's official website, reflects that she has not filed any pleadings in that court, as of the date the State filed the instant motion to dismiss.

The Doctrines of Procedural Default and Procedural Bar

Ms. Crawford's petition is barred under the doctrine of procedural default. If an inmate seeking habeas corpus relief fails to exhaust an issue in state court - and no more avenues exist to do so - under the doctrine of procedural default that issue cannot be raised in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. Sones v. Hargett, 61 F.3d 410, 416 (5th Cir. 1995). Similarly, federal courts have no jurisdiction to review a habeas corpus claim "if the last state court to consider that claim expressly relied on a state ground for denial of relief that is both independent of the merits of the federal claim and an adequate basis for the court's decision." Roberts v. Thaler, 681 F.3d 597, 604 (5th Cir. 2012). Thus, a federal court may not consider a habeas corpus claim when, "(1) a state court [has] declined to address [those] claims because the prisoner [has] failed to meet a state procedural requirement, and (2) the state judgment rests on independent and adequate state procedural grounds." Maples v. Thomas, — U.S. —, 132 S.Ct. 912, 922, 181 L.Ed.2d 807 (2012) (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). This doctrine is known as procedural bar.

A state procedural rule is "independent" when the state law ground for decision is not "interwoven with the federal law." Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1040, 103 S. Ct. 3469, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1201 (1983). A state law ground is interwoven with federal law if "the state has made application of the procedural bar depend on an antecedent ruling on federal law [such as] the

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determination of whether federal...

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