Strong v. Watson, No. 1:19CV118-SA-DAS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtSharion Aycock UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Docket NumberNo. 1:19CV118-SA-DAS
Decision Date26 June 2020


No. 1:19CV118-SA-DAS


June 26, 2020


This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of Anthony Strong for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has responded to the petition, and Mr. Strong has filed a Traverse. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be dismissed under the doctrine of procedural default.

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 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

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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

Anthony Strong is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) and housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana. He pled guilty to aggravated assault in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Mississippi. See Exhibit A1 (Plea Transcript). On June 23, 2017, Anthony Strong was sentenced to a term of twenty (20) years, with fifteen (15) years suspended, five (5) years to serve, and five (5) years post-release supervision upon release from custody. See Exhibit B.2 The order further provided that the sentence imposed by the circuit court was to run "concurrent with [the] sentence previously imposed in federal criminal no. 1:16CR052-NBB-DAS. . . ." Id.

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On April 25, 2018, Strong signed a "Motion for Amendment of Judgment," which was stamped as "filed" in the Monroe County Circuit Court on April 30, 2018. See Exhibit E. Further, on June 8, 2018, Strong signed a "Motion for Jail Credit to be Apply to State Sentence," which was stamped as "filed" in the Monroe County Circuit Court on June 18, 2018. See Exhibit F. On November 6, 2018, Strong signed a "Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief Due to a Defective Indictment," which was stamped as "filed" in the Monroe County Circuit Court on November 9, 2018. See Exhibit G. He filed an additional letter on November 29, 2018, discussing his habeas corpus petition (see Exhibit H), which was docketed in the Monroe County Circuit Court as a "Pro Se Petition." See Exhibit I. On February 6, 2019, he signed a "Motion for Jail Credit," which was stamped as "filed" on February 11, 2019. See Exhibit J.

The docket of the Monroe County Circuit Court in Cause No. CR2016-077 reflects that, in three separate Orders filed July 20, 2019, the circuit court ruled on Strong's outstanding motions and, in a fourth Order, granted Strong's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See Exhibit I. The trial court found with regard to Strong's motion to review his sentence, that the motion was without merit based on confirmation to the trial judge from the MDOC's Central Records Department that Strong was "given credit for eighty-seven (87) days served before his plea." See Exhibit K.3 The trial court also denied Strong's motion to amend the judgment, finding that the argument that he did not intend to

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plead to five (5) mandatory years was without merit. See Exhibit M. In ruling on Strong's motion, the circuit court found that it lacked merit because:

For aggravated assault, there is no minimum sentence; the maximum sentence is twenty (20) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, none of which is mandatory. During the Plea Hearing, the Petitioner admitted in open court, under oath, that he understood the State's recommendation and it was the same as his attorney had told him. The Court followed the State's recommendation and sentenced the Petitioner to twenty (20) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with fifteen (15) years suspended, leaving five (5) years to serve.

See Exhibit M. Finally, the trial judge denied Mr. Strong's "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Relief." See Exhibit N. The trial court treated Strong's habeas corpus petition as a motion for post-conviction relief4 and addressed Strong's allegations that the indictment charged the wrong statute and that counsel was ineffective "for allowing him to plead guilty to a non-existent offense." Id. In finding that Strong's claims lacked merit, the trial court found:

Petitioner claims that the indictment charged the wrong statute. Petitioner explains that the shooting of the victim occurred because of reckless behavior, and not knowingly and purposeful conduct mentioned in the indictment; thus, the indictment for aggravated assault was defective. To the contrary, Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(2) establishes aggravated assault with purposely, knowingly, or reckless conduct under the circumstances. The indictment followed Section 97-3-7(2); therefore, the indictment was sufficient. Moreover, the Petitioner pled guilty in open court, under oath, that he did in fact purposely, knowingly, feloniously assault[ ] the victim pursuant to Section 97-3-7(2). The Petitioner's argument with this issue is without merit. With the above result, the Petitioner's final argument for ineffective assistance of counsel is moot.

Id. The court's Order provided that a copy of the Order was to be mailed to Strong at his

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current address, and the docket confirms that a copy of the filed order was mailed to him. Id; see also Exhibit I. The dockets further reflect that Strong did not appeal the lower court's Order to the Mississippi...

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