Landrum v. Landry

Decision Date29 November 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action 19-668-BAJ-EWD
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana



Civil Action No. 19-668-BAJ-EWD

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 29, 2022


Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the U.S. District Court.

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have 14 days after being served with the attached report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations set forth therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions accepted by the District Court.




Before this Court is the Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“habeas petition”), filed by Petitioner Charles William Landrum (“Landrum”).[1] It is recommended that Landrum's habeas petition be denied as the claims asserted are without merit. There is no need for oral argument or for an evidentiary hearing.

I. Procedural History

On August 27, 2012, Petitioner was charged with a Bill of Information in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana for felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated: fourth offense.[2] After a jury trial in October of 2015, Petitioner was convicted as charged.[3] On March 16, 2016, Petitioner was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment, consecutive to any other pending sentence.[4]

Petitioner filed a direct appeal to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal (“First Circuit”). His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the First Circuit on February 16, 2018.[5]


On May 25, 2018, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari.[6] Petitioner did not pursue post-conviction relief.[7]

On or about September 30, 2019, Petitioner filed his habeas application in this Court, asserting the following claims for relief: (1) prosecutorial misconduct for failure to disclose evidence, (2) violation of the statute of limitations to institute trial, (3) denial of the right to selfrepresentation, and (4) constitutionally deficient jury instruction regarding reasonable doubt.[8]

II. Factual Background

The facts, as accurately summarized in the decision of the First Circuit, are as follows:

On July 13, 2012, Myrtle Watts, a clerk at the Circle K on Hooper Road in Baton Rouge, was working an overnight shift when a male customer, [Landrum], attempted to purchase an alcoholic beverage and pay for gasoline. [Landrum's] credit card was initially declined at the pump, and again at the counter. After his card was declined at the counter [Landrum] walked to the ATM located at the back of the store Watts noticed that [Landrum] smelled of alcohol at the time and walked “uneven.” [Landrum] briefly exited the store before reentering and going back and forth to the ATM machine. He ultimately exited, reentered his vehicle, and sped away with the nozzle of the gas pump still connected to his vehicle, causing sparks of fire on the road. Watts immediately called the police and reported the incident
Corporal Jeffrey Norton of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriffs Office was on patrol at the time, responding to an unrelated incident. He made contact with [Landrum] at approximately 12:30 a.m., on Sullivan Road. He observed the gas nozzle flapping in the wind, hanging out of the side of [Landrum's] vehicle, a green Jeep Grand Cherokee. [Landrum] turned into a Chase Bank parking lot without using a turn signal. As Corporal Norton followed [Landrum] into the Chase Bank parking lot, he received the dispatch regarding someone driving away with a gas nozzle from the Circle K. [Landrum] and his vehicle fit the description provided in the dispatch. [Landrum] parked his vehicle, approached the ATM by foot, and remained in the ATM vestibule for less than five minutes. Corporal Norton called out to [Landrum] as he walked back toward his vehicle. After Corporal Norton brought [Landrum's] attention to the dangling gas nuzzle and began to question him, [Landrum] removed the gas nozzle and placed it in his backseat and walked
to the driver's door of his vehicle. As the officer continued his attempt to question [Landrum], [Landrum] suddenly fled on foot.
Corporal Norton gave chase and apprehended [Landrum], who became winded and fell down to the ground in the parking lot of a shopping center within the vicinity. [Landrum] had a strong odor of alcohol, glassy red eyes, and slurred speech, and walked off-balance. After being advised of his Miranda[9] rights, [Landrum] declined field sobriety testing, and stated that he had only drank a couple of beers earlier that day.[10] [Landrum] was transported to the central substation where he was further advised of his rights and submitted to a chemical test of his breath. A sample he provided, at approximately 1:45 a.m., indicated his blood-alcohol level was 0.124.[11]

III. Timeliness

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d), a prisoner in state custody has one year to file a federal habeas corpus petition. The one-year period begins to run on the date judgment becomes final through the conclusion of direct review or through the expiration of the time to seek direct review.[12] A properly filed application for state habeas relief or other collateral review tolls this time period.[13] After a petitioner has proceeded through all stages of direct appellate review in the state courts, the period of direct review also includes the petitioner's right to seek discretionary review before the United States Supreme Court. As a result, after a ruling by the state's highest court on direct appeal, a petitioner's judgment becomes final when the United States Supreme Court issues a decision denying discretionary review or, if no application for review is filed, at the conclusion of the ninety-day time period for seeking review at the Supreme Court.[14]


Respondents attempt to persuade the Court that Landrum's conviction became final on May 7, 2018 because Landrum failed to file a petition for writ of certiorari with the Louisiana Supreme Court after the First Circuit affirmed his conviction on direct appeal.[15] Landrum represents in his habeas petition that he did appeal his conviction to the Louisiana Supreme Court.[16]As the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a writ denial in Landrum's case on May 25, 2018, it appears that Landrum did, in fact, appeal his conviction to the Louisiana Supreme Court.[17]

Respondents suggest that the Louisiana Supreme Court's May 25, 2018 writ denial pertains not to Landrum's direct appeal, but to a separate writ of mandamus he filed on October 24, 2017.[18]While the docket numbers on the writ denial and the petition for writ of mandamus match, other evidence suggests that the Louisiana Supreme Court's May 25, 2018 decision was a denial of the application for certiorari review of the First Circuit's opinion affirming Landrum's conviction. First, the writ denial itself says that Landrum applied for a “writ of certiorari,” not a writ of mandamus. The heading of the writ denial also references the case number of the First Circuit's opinion affirming Landrum's conviction.[19] Most significantly, the First Circuit has twice cited the May 25, 2018 writ denial as denying review of its opinion affirming Landrum's conviction on direct appeal.[20] Accordingly, Landrum's conviction became final on August 24, 2018, which was


the end of the ninety day period in which he could have sought further review with the Supreme Court.

Respondents argue that Landum's habeas petition is untimely even if the Court uses August 24, 2018 as the date the conviction became final because Landrum filed his petition at the earliest on September 27, 2019.[21] However, the record reflects that Landrum sent a letter to this Court before the statute of limitations expired, received on April 24, 2019.[22] The heading on the letter included the docket numbers from Landrum's cases at the trial court, First Circuit, and Louisiana Supreme Court. The body of the letter stated that Landrum was at the Steve Hoyle program and was scheduled to be released on August 16, 2019. It also stated, “Charles Landrum, I write in reference to an extension to file with this court.”[23] This Court responded to Landrum's letter by returning it, advising “[t]he documents are returned to you for filing in the proper court.. .Enclosures: documents submitted to the wrong court.”[24]

Landrum subsequently filed a pleading with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on May 20, 2019, seeking relief from his conviction.[25] Landrum advised the Court that the Fifth Circuit never told him that he filed with the wrong court. When Landrum called the Fifth Circuit in the fall of 2019 to check on the status of his case, he discovered the error. Thereafter, Landrum submitted his petition to this Court on or about September 27, 2019.[26]

Under these facts, Landrum's habeas petition is timely. Landrum submitted a substantially similar pleading to the Fifth Circuit on May 20, 2019. The Fifth Circuit could have transferred that pleading to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631, the purpose of which is to aid litigants who


are confused about the proper forum for review and to prevent any prejudice from such confusion when the interests of justice are served.[27] Accordingly, May 20, 2019, the date Landrum filed his habeas claims with the Fifth Circuit, will be treated as the...

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