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Darby v. Jones

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

June 24, 2015

ELVIN EARL DARBY, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN KENNETH JONES and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF ALABAMA, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

On January 9, 2015, Magistrate Judge England entered a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that the Court dismiss Mr. Darby’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 9). After an extension of time, Mr. Darby filed objections to the report on February 17, 2015. (Doc. 12). For the following reasons, the Court overrules Mr. Darby’s objections.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). When a party makes timely objections to a Report and Recommendation, the district court “make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id.

II. DISCUSSION

In his petition for habeas corpus, Mr. Darby “challenges his April 7, 2005 conviction in the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court for two counts of first-degree sodomy, for which he was sentenced to fifty years in prison.” (Doc. 12, p. 1). Mr. Darby contends that the state circuit court violated his federal due process rights when the court waited too long to mail an order to him that would have given him an opportunity amend his fourth Rule 32 petition to present newly discovered evidence for the circuit court’s consideration. (Doc. 12, p. 3).

That state court order to which Mr. Darby refers states that the issues that Mr. Darby identified in his fourth Rule 32 petition:

have been previously addressed and [the petition] is clearly successive. The petition fails to state a claim for any “newly discovered evidence” that would grant relief. The petitioner is given 30 days to amend if he so chooses to state a claim.

(Doc. 12, p. 3; see also Doc. 8, p. 9). Mr. Darby contends that because he received the order more than 30 days after the circuit court issued the order, he lost his actual innocence defense. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Mr. Darby summarizes his federal due process argument as follows:

The circuit court’s failure to furnish Darby a copy of its [sic] order without undue delay resulted in Darby’s failure to respond to the circuit court’s [sic] order within 30 days. Darby’s failure to respond to the circuit court’s [sic] order due to constitutional error in the circuit courts failure to furnish Darby a copy of its [sic] without undue delay caused the loss of Darby’s actual innocent claim directly related to his detention.

(Id.; see also Doc. 12, p. 5).

Magistrate Judge England recommended that the Court dismiss Mr. Darby’s federal habeas petition because Mr. Darby’s petition is “an attack on the fairness of Darby’s Rule 32 collateral proceeding, ” and under Quince v. Crosby, 360 F.3d 1259, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004), “a finding of a constitutional violation in that proceeding would not entitle him to relief from his sentence or conviction.” (Doc. 9, p. 3). In his objections to Judge England’s report, Mr. Darby challenges certain characterizations of his habeas argument in the report and emphasizes that his actual innocence claim is “directly related to his detention, ” such that Quince should not bar his federal habeas petition. (See Doc. 12, pp. 5-11).

In Quince v. Crosby, 360 F.3d 1259, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004), the Eleventh Circuit held that “an alleged defect in a collateral proceeding does not state a basis for habeas relief.” The Eleventh Circuit explained, however, that a petitioner can argue “that there was a deficiency which rendered the state court proceedings not full and fair. Such a deficiency might deprive the state of the presumption of correctness with respect to the findings of” the state court judge. Id.

Judge England properly found that Mr. Darby’s federal habeas petition does not attack the validity of Darby’s state conviction or sentence but instead pertains to the fairness of Mr. Darby’s fourth Rule 32 collateral proceeding. Admittedly, if Mr. Darby could establish actual innocence in the Rule 32 proceeding, the result would have a direct impact on his detention, but the fact remains that his federal petition addresses the lack of due process in a state collateral proceeding, ...


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