United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
CARLOS D. EATON, Petitioner,
RANDY LEE, Respondent.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING CERTIFICATE
OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA
THOMAS ANDERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
D. Eaton, a Tennessee state prisoner, has filed an amended
petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking habeas corpus
relief (“petition”). (ECF No. 11.) Before the
Court is the motion to dismiss of Respondent, Randy Lee. (ECF
No. 18.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is
State Proceedings and § 2254 Petition
10, 1995, Eaton was convicted of first degree murder
following a guilty plea. He was sentenced to an effective
term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in
the Tennessee Department of Correction. (ECF No. 11 at 1.)
The defendant did not appeal his guilty plea or seek
post-conviction review by any state court. (Id. at
24.) On October 31, 2013, Eaton filed a petition for writ of
coram nobis in which he claimed the existence of
newly discovered exculpatory evidence. (ECF No. 19-1 at
75-78.) On December 17, 2014, the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed the judgment of the
coram nobis court, concluding, in part, that the
evidence was not “newly discovered, ” as required
by the coram nobis statute, and that the evidence
did not “demonstrate that [Eaton] is actually innocent
of” first degree murder. Eaton v. State, No.
W2014-00791-CCA-R3-ECN, 2014 WL 7179490, at *2-3 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Dec. 17, 2014). Petitioner did not seek permission to
appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. (ECF No. 11 at 3.) On
January 9, 2015, Eaton filed a state writ of habeas corpus in
the Circuit Court for Johnson County, Tennessee. (ECF No.
19-5 at 14-16.) On November 16, 2015, Eaton's state
habeas corpus petition was denied as non-cognizable. (ECF No.
19-5 at 19.)
10, 2015, Eaton filed his pro se § 2254
petition, which he later re-filed on the Court's official
form. (ECF No. 11.) Relying on a photograph he alleges he
received in the mail in 2015, Petitioner claims that he is
innocent of the crime of first degree murder and that his
actual innocence also allows him to avoid the statute of
limitations for the filing of a § 2254 petition.
(Id. at 2, 4, 7.)
has moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that
Eaton's claim is untimely and equitable tolling is not
warranted. (ECF No. 18.) The Court agrees. The petition's
allegations, which include references to photographic and
other evidence, along with public documents in Eaton's
state court criminal and coram nobis cases, show
that Eaton filed his federal habeas claims well beyond the
limitations period and that he is not entitled to
actual-innocence equitable tolling.
defendant may raise a statute of limitations affirmative
defense “‘on a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6) when it is apparent from the face of the complaint
that the time limit for bringing the claim has
passed.'” Hoover v. Langston Equip. Assocs.,
Inc., 958 F.2d 742, 744 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting 5
Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure,
§ 1308, p. 695 (West 1990). In ruling on a 12(b)(6)
motion, the court may consider “exhibits attached to
the complaint, public records, items appearing in the record
of the case, and exhibits attached to defendant's motion
to dismiss, so long as they are referred to in the complaint
and are central to the claims contained therein, without
converting the motion to one for summary judgment.”
Gavitt v. Born, 835 F.3d 623, 640 (6th Cir. 2016).
Where such information shows “that the limitations
period has been exceeded, ” and does not “sketch
a factual predicate that would warrant the application of
either a different statute of limitations period” or
the application of a tolling principal, “dismissal is
appropriate.” Santana-Castro v.
Toledo-Dávila, 579 F.3d 109, 114 (1st Cir. 2009)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). See also
Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 613 (6th
Cir. 2009) (“[T]here is no reason not to grant a motion
to dismiss where the undisputed facts conclusively establish
an affirmative defense as a matter of law.”).
§ 2254 petition is subject to a one-year statute of
limitations. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations
period begins to run from the latest of four possible dates:
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the
conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for
seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application
created by State action in violation of the Constitution or
laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was
prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was
initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has
been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made
retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or
claims presented could have been discovered through the
exercise of due diligence.
Id. The one-year limitations period is tolled during
the time “a properly filed application for State
post-conviction or other collateral review . . . is pending .
. . ...