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Robbins v. Crowell

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

December 11, 2019

TEDDY ROBBINS, Petitioner,
v.
GEORGIA CROWELL, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS A. VARLAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner, a prisoner in the Tennessee Department of Correction, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking relief from his 2012 convictions for domestic assault, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape in Scott County, Tennessee [Doc. 2]. Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss the petition as time-barred [Doc. 17], a memorandum in support thereof [Doc. 18], and the state court record [Doc. 16]. Petitioner filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss [Doc. 23] and a memorandum in support thereof [Doc. 24].

         For the reasons set forth below, Respondent's motion to dismiss the petition as time-barred [Doc. 17] will be DENIED, Petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations during the time in which he was unaware that the Tennessee Supreme Court (“TSC”) had denied his Rule 11 application for discretionary appeal of the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals' (“TCCA”) affirmance of the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, Petitioner's § 2254 petition [Doc. 2] is therefore timely, Petitioner's motion requesting a Court order requiring Respondent to provide him with mail log documents to establish whether he received any legal mail from the TSC or his former counsel between November 16, 2017, and February 1, 2019 [Doc. 4] will be DENIED as moot, and Respondent will be ORDERED to answer or otherwise respond to the petition within sixty (60) days from the date of entry of this order.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 26, 2012, a jury in Scott County, Tennessee, found Petitioner guilty of one count of domestic assault, one count of aggravated assault, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated rape [Doc. 16-1 p. 114-17]. Petitioner appealed his convictions to TCCA, which affirmed them, and the TSC denied discretionary review. State v. Robbins, No. E2013-00527-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 545481 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 10, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 23, 2014).

         On April 27, 2015, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the state court [Doc. 16-14 p. 4-12]. Appointed counsel subsequently filed two amended petitions [Id. at 25-30, 50-62], which the state court dismissed after a hearing [Id. at 70- 71]. Petitioner appealed this dismissal to the TCCA, which affirmed, and the TSC denied discretionary review. Robbins v. State, No. E2016-01531-CCA-R3-PC, 2017 WL 2791186 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 27, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 16, 2017).

         II. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2241, et seq., provides a one-year statute of limitations for filing an application for a federal writ of habeas corpus. The statute provides in relevant part as follows:

A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State Court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of--
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review . . . .

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). However, the time “during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation. . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).

         As it does not appear that Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court regarding the TSC's decision not to review the TCCA's affirmance of his convictions, his convictions became final ninety days after the TSC entered this decision, specifically on September 22, 2014. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 524 (2003) (holding that, if no petition for certiorari is filed, the judgment becomes final upon expiration of the ninety-day period for seeking certiorari review in the Supreme Court). The AEDPA clock therefore began to run the next day, on September 23, 2014, and ran for two-hundred and sixteen days until Petitioner filed his petition for post-conviction relief on April 27, 2015, at which point it paused. The AEDPA clock remained paused until November 16, 2017, the day on which the TSC declined discretionary review of the TCCA's affirmance of the dismissal of Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief. Robinson v. Easterling, 424 Fed. App'x 439, 442 (6th Cir. 2011) (providing that the AEDPA “clock began to run again” after the TSC declined to review a habeas petitioner's post-conviction appeal). Thus, the AEDPA clock began to run again on November 17, 2017, and expired one-hundred and fifty days later on Monday, April 16, 2018. As such, Petitioner's § 2254 petition, which he filed on February 27, 2019, is untimely, unless the Court finds that Petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations.

         III. EQUITABLE TOLLING

         The AEDPA statute of limitations is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010). Equitable tolling is warranted where a petitioner shows that he has diligently pursued his rights, but an extraordinary circumstance prevented him from timely filing his petition. Holland, 560 U.S. at 649. The petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating that he is entitled to equitable tolling, Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005), and federal courts should grant equitable tolling sparingly. Souter v. Jones, 395 F.3d 577, 588 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. ...


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