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Winkfield v. Lindamood

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

July 24, 2017




         Samuel Winkfield, a Tennessee state prisoner, has filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking habeas corpus relief (“petition”). (Am. Pet., ECF Nos. 9 & 9-1.) For the reasons that follow, the petition is DENIED.


         A. State Court Proceedins

         On January 2, 2007, a grand jury in Madison County, Tennessee, returned an indictment charging Winkfield with first degree murder; murder in perpetration of a felony, namely, aggravated robbery; especially aggravated kidnapping; tampering with evidence; and conspiring to tamper with evidence. State v. Winkfield, No. W2008-01347-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 796917, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 9, 2010), app. den. (Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010).

         Petitioner's first trial in July of 2007 resulted in a mistrial. A second jury trial on the charges commenced in the Circuit Court for Madison County, Tennessee, on January 22, 2008. The jury heard evidence that on October 19, 2006, the defendant, who lived in a house with James Charles Haney and Terrance McGee, shot Haney over a dispute about drugs. McGee did not see the shooting, but testified as to Winkfield's conduct and demeanor following Haney's death. Larry Futrell, a fellow inmate of Winkfield's at the county jail, testified that Winkfield confessed to shooting Haney. Winkfield, 2010 WL 796917, at *1-4.

         On January 25, 2008, the jury announced that it was deadlocked on the kidnapping charge, but convicted Winkfield of second degree murder and tampering with evidence. Id. at *4. The trial judge sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of twenty-five years at 100% for the second degree murder and to a concurrent term of six years as a Range I offender for tampering with evidence. Id. at *5. The TCCA affirmed the convictions and sentence, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. Id. at *1.

         On August 15, 2011, Winkfield filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Madison County Circuit Court. The post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition, as amended, and denied relief. The TCCA affirmed, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. Winkfield v. State, No. W2012-02413-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 6001929 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 8, 2013), app. den. (Tenn. Apr. 11, 2014).

         B. First and Second Habeas Petitions

         On May 5, 2014, Winkfield filed his first pro se § 2254 petition, which was docketed as the case-initiating pleading in Case No. 14-cv-01102 (“first petition” or “May 2014 petition”). (Pet., Winkfield v. Donahue, No. 1:14-cv-01102-JDB-egb (W.D. Tenn. May. 5, 2014), ECF No. 1.) On May 8, 2014, the Court ordered Petitioner to either file an in forma pauperis application or pay the $5.00 habeas filing fee within thirty days. (Order, id., ECF No. 3.) Because Winkfield failed to comply with the order, the Court dismissed the petition for failure to prosecute, pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Order, id., ECF No. 4.) The Court later clarified that the dismissal was without prejudice. (Order, id., ECF No. 7.) Winkfield mounted an unsuccessful challenge to the dismissal of his first petition, asking for reconsideration of the dismissal order and filing an appeal. (See Mo. Reconsider, id., ECF No. 9; Winkfield v Lindamood, No. 16-5662 (6th Cir. Nov. 10, 2016)).

         On August 1, 2014, Winkfield commenced the present case with the filing of a second pro se §2254 petition (“second petition” or “August 2014 petition”). (Pet., ECF No. 1.)[1] On December 9, 2014, Winkfield submitted his amended petition. (Am. Pet., ECF Nos. 9 and 9-1.) The amended petition restates Claims 1 through 5 of the August 2014 petition, and raises two new issues (Claims 6 and 7):

Claim 1: The TCCA's determination that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Petitioner's convictions is contrary to Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979). (Am. Pet., ECF No. 9 at 5);
Claim 2: The TCCA's determination that the trial court did not err in allowing the prosecution to introduce the defendant's prior testimony is contrary to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). (Id. at 7);
Claim 3: The TCCA's affirmance of the trial court's exclusion of a witnesses' MySpace page was contrary to the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. at 87. (Id. at 8);
Claim 4: The TCCA's affirmance of the sentence is contrary to Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 66 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). (Id. at 9);
Claim 5: The TCCA's determination that Petitioner's trial attorneys were not ineffective in numerous respects was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent (Id. at 11);
Claim 6: Post-conviction counsel rendered ineffective assistance by defaulting Petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct claim (Am. Pet., ECF No. 9-1 at 1);
Claim 7: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's misconduct. (Id. at 5.)

         C. Court's Denial of Motion to Dismiss Claims as Untimely

         On January 29, 2015, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the amended petition as untimely. (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 14.) The motion was brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and alternatively, Rule 56. Respondent argued that the August 2014 petition, as supplemented with additional claims in December of 2014, was time barred. Winkfield opposed the motion, arguing that he was not able to file the petition in a timely manner because his prison was on lockdown from July 10, 2014 until July 29, 2014. (Resp., ECF No. 18.) He insisted that he was entitled to equitable tolling. (Id. at 3-5.)

         The Court thereafter directed the State to file a reply addressing the issue of equitable tolling. (Order, ECF No. 19.) Respondent was instructed that the reply should be accompanied by a factual affidavit responding to Petitioner's allegations about a lockdown. (Id. at 5.) Petitioner was advised that he could respond to any proof offered by Respondent within twenty-one days of service. (Id.)

         On August 11, 2015, Respondent filed a reply, which was accompanied by the affidavit of Byron Ponds, the Chief of Security at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility, where Winkfield was confined when he submitted his petition. (Reply, ECF No. 20; Pond Aff., ECF No. 20-1.) The affidavit stated that Petitioner's unit was not on lockdown between the dates of July 10, 2014 and July 29, 2014. (Ponds Aff., ECF No. 20-1 at 1.)

         Winkfield filed a sur-reply, accompanied by a letter addressed to the Court. (Sur-reply, ECF No. 22; Ltr., ECF No. 22-2.) The inmate conceded that, contrary to his earlier allegation, his prison had not been on lockdown the last two weeks of July. (Ltr., ECF No. 22-2 at 1.) He explained that the reply, which had been filed by an inmate legal advisor, had not been reviewed by the Petitioner before the filing deadline due to time constraints. (Id.) He nevertheless maintained that he is entitled to equitable tolling. He alleged that he submitted his in forma pauperis application to a prison staff member named “Ms. Smith, ” who was to provide a copy of his trust fund statement. (Sur-reply, ECF No. 22 at 1.) According to Petitioner, Ms. Smith did not return the completed application to him “in a timely manner, ” which caused him to miss the Court's deadline. (Id.)

         The Court denied the motion to dismiss, without prejudice, on the ground that the issue of equitable tolling was not resolvable on the pleadings and record submitted. (Order, ECF No. 23.) The Court held that, “[i]f Winkfield's first § 2254 Petition, which was presented in Case Number 14-1102, was dismissed because prison officials unreasonably delayed in processing his in forma pauperis materials or mailing the habeas filing fee, he would be entitled to equitable tolling.” (Id. at 12.)


         On October 15, 2015, Respondent filed its answer to the amended petition, arguing that all of the claims should be dismissed as untimely. (Ans., ECF No. 24 at 3-5.) In the alternative, the State contends that some of the claims are procedurally defaulted and all are without merit. (Id. at 15-31.)

         By order of Court, Winkfield was allowed twenty-eight days to respond to the answer. (Order, ECF No. 23 at 12.) He did not do so, and did not seek an extension of time. Two months after the answer was filed, he filed a motion for a subpoena to secure certain prison mail records. (Mo. Subpoena, ECF No. 26.) Respondent filed a brief in opposition to the motion. (Br. Opp., ECF No. 27.)

         For the following reasons, the Court holds that the claims are untimely and that Petitioner is not entitled to equitable tolling. The Court also finds that Winkfield procedurally defaulted some of the claims and that others are without merit.

         A. Statute of Limitations and Equitable Tolling

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), a § 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 ...

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