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Frazier v. Slatery

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

November 6, 2019

DAVID FRAZIER, Petitioner,
v.
HERBERT H. SLATERY, III, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HARRY S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner David Frazier, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his expired Tennessee judgments of conviction for two counts of felony evading arrest. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the State-court record, and the law applicable to Petitioner's claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 19, 2004, Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of felony evading arrest in the Polk County Criminal Court and was sentenced to concurrent two-year sentences, which were suspended to probation [Doc. 17-1 p. 18-19; Doc. 17-18]. In September 2013, Petitioner, by that time a federal inmate, challenged his State-court judgments by filing a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 [Doc. 17-1 p. 13-16]. In a supplemental motion, Petitioner alleged that the concurrent alignment of his sentences was illegally lenient, as a statute mandated consecutive alignment because Petitioner was released on bail when he committed the offenses [Id. at 25-28]. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion [Id. at 35].

         On appeal, the State conceded that the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing [Doc. 17-3]. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) reversed the summary dismissal and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. See Frazier v. State, No. E2013-02563-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2743243 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 16, 2014).[1]

         On remand, the trial court held a hearing and attempted to correct the illegal nature of Petitioner's sentences by entering corrected judgments for consecutive one-year sentences [Doc. 17-9, p. 8-9]. On April 27, 2015, Petitioner filed another motion to correct an illegal sentence, alleging that the trial court did not comply with the prior appellate opinion [Doc. 17-6 p. 4-6]. In light of that motion, the trial court agreed with Petitioner and vacated the corrected judgments as void [Id. at 19]. The trial court then held another hearing to resolve the pending motion [Doc. 17-7]. After that hearing, the trial court entered an order dismissing the motion to correct an illegal sentence because the sentences had already expired [Doc. 17-6 p. 40-61].

         On appeal from the remand, the TCCA affirmed the dismissal of the motion to correct an illegal sentence due to the expiration of the sentences. See State v. Frazier, No. E2016-0006-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 2782202 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 27, 2017). The State court based its decision on a change in intervening State law subsequent to its prior opinion remanding the case. Id. at *2 (citing State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200, 210 (Tenn. 2015)). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied discretionary review [Doc. 17-21].

         On June 7, 2018, Petitioner filed the instant petition in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, raising various claims based on the State court's adjudication of his motion to correct an illegal sentence [Doc. 1]. The Western District transferred the petition to this Court on November 6, 2018 [Doc. 8]. This Court subsequently ordered Respondent to file a response to the petition, and Respondent complied by filing an answer on June 26, 2019, asserting that the petition fails to meet the statutory custody and statute of limitation requirements, and that it otherwise fails to present a cognizable basis for federal habeas review [Doc. 18]. The Court agrees.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. “In Custody” Requirement

         A federal court may entertain a habeas corpus petition “in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody by violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Where a petitioner's sentences have fully expired at the time the petition is filed, he is no longer “in custody” as required by the statute. See Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 238 (1968); see also Lackawanna Cty. Dist. Attorney v. Cross, 532 U.S. 394, 401 (2001) (citing Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 493 (1989)). Moreover, a conviction used to enhance a subsequent criminal sentence may not generally be used to “challenge the enhanced sentence through a petition under § 2254 on the ground that the prior conviction was unconstitutionally obtained.” Cross, 532 U.S. at 403-04; Daniels v. United States, 532 U.S. 374, 382 (2001). Therefore, the fact that these State-court judgments might have been used to enhance Petitioner's federal sentence is not of consequence in these proceedings.

         Here, Petitioner challenges judgments that were entered on July 19, 2004 [Doc. 17-1 p. 18-19]. Due to four different probation revocations, Petitioner's total effective sentence of two years was served in 2007 [Doc. 17-6 p. 42-45]. Petitioner is no longer in custody under the State judgments challenged here, and therefore, he fails to satisfy the “in custody” requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[2]

         B. Timeliness Requirement

         A habeas corpus petition challenging a prisoner's confinement under a State-court judgment must typically be filed within one year of the date on which the judgment “became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).[3] Once the one-year limitation period commences, the pendency of a “properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral ...


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