Flowers v. Hanks

Decision Date17 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 3:96-CV-0483 AS.,3:96-CV-0483 AS.
PartiesClarence FLOWERS, Petitioner, v. Craig HANKS, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

Clarence Flowers, Wabash Valley Correctional Institution, Carlisle, IN, pro se.

Cornell Collins, Gary, IN, for petitioner.

Robert L. Collins, Indiana Attorney General, Indiana Government Center South, Indianapolis, IN, for respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ALLEN SHARP, Chief Judge.

On June 26, 1996, petitioner, Clarence Flowers ("Flowers"), filed the present petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this court, challenging a 1986 conviction for murder imposed by the State of Indiana. Flowers is currently incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Indiana, and has filed his petition pro se.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 3, 1986, Flowers was charged by information in the Tippecanoe County Circuit Court with the murder of Larry Farrell. Later that month, the State of Indiana filed an allegation of capital offense in relation to the murder charge. Initially, Flowers entered a plea of not guilty. However, on April 16, 1996, Flowers moved to withdraw his not guilty plea. During a hearing on the motion to withdraw, Flowers testified that on November 26, 1985, he shot Mr. Farrell in a Lafayette barber shop because Farrell owed him money. Consequently, Flowers' motion to withdraw his plea was granted and, pursuant to a written plea agreement, he pled guilty to murder in exchange for the State's dismissal of the capital offense allegation. On June 11, 1986, Flowers was sentenced under the terms of the plea agreement to a term of sixty (60) years in prison by the Honorable Ronald Melichar of the Tippecanoe Circuit Court.

At the sentencing hearing, Flowers orally attempted to withdraw his guilty plea after becoming aware of evidence which could possibly exculpate him of the murder charge. Because defense counsel learned of the possibility of new evidence for the first time immediately before the sentencing hearing, defense counsel moved for a continuance of sentencing so that he could prepare a verified written motion to withdraw Flowers' guilty plea in compliance with IND.CODE § 35-35-1-4(b). Subsequently, the state trial court denied Flowers' motion to withdraw his guilty plea and his motion for continuance of sentencing, finding that Flowers had knowingly and voluntarily pled guilty to the offense charged. As a result, the state trial court accepted Flowers' plea of guilty.

Flowers appealed his conviction directly to the Supreme Court of Indiana. On appeal, Flowers raised two grounds for review: (1) that the state trial court abused its discretion by refusing to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea; and (2) that the state trial court violated his right to effective assistance of counsel when it refused to allow defense counsel to withdraw after it became apparent that the petitioner and his attorney had an irreconcilable conflict. On September 13, 1988, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Givan, the Supreme Court of Indiana affirmed both Flowers' conviction and his sentence. See Flowers v. State, 528 N.E.2d 57 (1988).

II. ARGUMENTS

Mr. Flowers turned to federal court by filing the present petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court on June 26, 1996. In his petition, he presents four separate issues. First, he alleges that his guilty plea was not made knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Second, he claims that his public defender denied him the right to appeal the denial of his motion for post-conviction relief. Third, he contends that his conviction was based upon insufficient evidence. Fourth, he claims that his conviction was obtained by a "structurally defective" indictment which had no basis in fact. Thus, the petitioner requests the court grant him habeas relief in this case.

On July 30, 1996, the respondent filed his return to order to show cause, demonstrating the necessary compliance with Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100 (7th Cir.1982). In the return, the respondent first argues that the recently enacted one-year statute of limitations bars Flowers from filing his federal habeas petition. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Should the statute of limitations not apply, the respondent argues that Flowers has procedurally defaulted all of his claims by failing to properly present them to the courts of the State of Indiana. In the alternative, should the court find that the claims have not been procedurally defaulted, the respondent argues that Flowers entered his guilty plea knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently and, thus, his murder conviction is constitutionally valid. Consequently, the respondent requests that the court deny his habeas petition.

On August 12, 1996, the petitioner filed his traverse to order to show cause. In his traverse, Flowers first claims that the State has failed to prove that he actually killed Larry Farrell. Second, he argues that the State improperly refused to allow him to present exculpatory evidence which allegedly would prove that the petitioner was in Florida at the time of the murder. Third, it appears that Flowers argues that his public defender's ineffective assistance of counsel is the cause for any argument of procedural default.1 Finally, the petitioner contends that the state courts have entered into a "state conspiracy" in order to abridge his due process and equal protection rights, and, thus, his petition must be granted.

III. BACKGROUND

A claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 requires the federal habeas court to ensure that the state criminal conviction was not achieved at the expense of the petitioner's constitutional rights. Justice Stewart, speaking for the Supreme Court of the United States in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), described the role of the federal district courts in habeas proceedings:

A judgment by a state appellate court rejecting a challenge to evidentiary sufficiency is of course entitled to deference by the federal courts, as is any judgment affirming a criminal conviction. But Congress in § 2254 has selected the federal district courts as precisely the forums that are responsible for determining whether state convictions have been secured in accord with federal constitutional law. The federal habeas corpus statute presumes the norm of a fair trial in the state court and adequate state postconviction remedies to redress possible error. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (d). What it does not presume is that these state proceedings will always be without error in the constitutional sense. The duty of a federal habeas corpus court to appraise a claim that constitutional error did occur — reflecting as it does the belief that the "finality" of a deprivation of liberty through the invocation of the criminal sanction is simply not to be achieved at the expense of a constitutional right — is not one that can be so lightly abjured.

Id. at 323, 99 S.Ct. at 2791.

Following Jackson, supra, there is an increasingly long line of cases in this circuit, including the very recent decision in Brumley v. Detella, 83 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir.1996), which suggest that the facts found by the highest court of a state are presumed to be correct. See also, Milone v. Camp, 22 F.3d 693, 697 n. 2 (7th Cir.1994), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 720, 130 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995); Cuppett v. Duckworth, 8 F.3d 1132, 1141 (7th Cir.1993) (en banc), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1180, 114 S.Ct. 1226, 127 L.Ed.2d 571 (1994); Andersen v. Thieret, 903 F.2d 526, 531 (7th Cir.1990). "This deference requires that a federal habeas court more than simply disagree with the state court before rejecting its factual determinations. Instead, it must conclude that the state court's findings `lacked even fair support in the record.'" Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 432, 103 S.Ct. 843, 850, 74 L.Ed.2d 646 (1983); see also Mills v. Jordan, 979 F.2d 1273, 1279 (7th Cir.1992).

The Congress of the United States has recently codified the holdings of Jackson and its progeny through the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 ("AEDPA"). The AEDPA amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in relevant part, as follows:

In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

It also must be understood that this court does not sit to correct any errors of state law. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991), and Kraushaar v. Flanigan, 45 F.3d 1040 (7th Cir.1995). Further, this court does not sit as a trier de novo in state court criminal proceedings and does not sit as a court of general common law review. The collateral review that is envisioned by § 2254 focuses on violations of the Constitution, treaties and laws of the United States. See Bell v. Duckworth, 861 F.2d 169 (7th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1088, 109 S.Ct. 1552, 103 L.Ed.2d 855 (1989).

IV. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

The initial issue before the court is one of first impression in this district — the applicability of the new one-year statute of limitations imposed by the Congress of the United States on all federal habeas petitions.2 Section 101 of the AEDPA amended 28 U.S.C. § 2244, adding a new period of limitations to petitions for writ of habeas corpus. Section 2244 now reads in relevant part:

(d)(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period...

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