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Bailey v. Billups

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

January 24, 2018

RANDY EUGENE BAILEY, # 169804, Petitioner,
v.
PHYLLIS J. BILLUPS, et al., Respondents.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge

         This case is before the court on a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by Alabama inmate Randy Eugene Bailey (“Bailey”) on February 19, 2016. Doc. No. 1.[1] Bailey challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his 2013 Lee County conviction for unlawfully manufacturing methamphetamine. Id. at 5. For the reasons that follow, it is the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge that Bailey's § 2254 petition be denied without an evidentiary hearing and this case be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 10, 2013, a Lee County jury found Bailey guilty of first-degree unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, in violation of § 13A-12-218, Ala. Code 1975. See Doc. No. 9-1 at 30; Doc. No. 9-3 at 62. On May 15, 2013, the trial court sentenced Bailey, as a habitual offender, to 21 years in prison. Doc. No. 9-3 at 73.

         Bailey appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. See Doc. No. 4. On February 28, 2014, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction by unpublished memorandum opinion, finding there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction. Doc. No. 9-6. Bailey applied for rehearing, which was overruled on March 21, 2014. Doc. Nos. 9-7 & 9-8. Bailey sought certiorari review in the Alabama Supreme Court, which denied his petition for writ of certiorari on August 8, 2014. Doc. No. 9-9. A certificate of judgment was entered that same date. Doc. Nos. 9-9 & 9-10.

         On February 26, 2015, Bailey filed a petition with the trial court seeking post-conviction relief under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Doc. No. 1-1 at 27. With his Rule 32 petition, Bailey submitted a request to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Id. at 7-9. On April 10, 2015, however, the trial court denied Bailey's IFP request, finding that his prison account had sufficient funds to pay the filing fee and directing him to pay the fee by July 13, 2015, or else his petition would be dismissed without prejudice. Id. at 29. Bailey did not pay the filing fee, o but instead filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals asking that court to direct the trial court to grant his IFP request. Doc. No. 9-11. On October 29, 2015, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denied Bailey's petition for mandamus, agreeing with the trial court that Bailey's prison account showed sufficient funds to pay the Rule 32 filing fee. Doc. No. 9-12. On December 8, 2015, the trial court entered an order dismissing Bailey's Rule 32 petition without prejudice. Doc. No. 1-1 at 30. Bailey did not seek further review in the state courts.

         On February 19, 2016, Bailey initiated this habeas action by filing a § 2254 petition pursuing his claim, raised in the state courts, that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for first-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine in violation of § 13A-12-218, Ala. Code 1975. See Doc. No. 1 at 5. The respondents maintain that Bailey's petition is time-barred by the one-year federal limitation period (see Doc. No. 9 at 3-5) and that, in any event, Bailey's sole claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence was correctly addressed and rejected on the merits by the state courts (see Doc. No. 17 at 5-7). Because it appears that Bailey's § 2254 petition was timely filed, this court will address the merits of Bailey's claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction.[2] And because this claim was correctly decided by the state courts, Bailey is not entitled to federal habeas relief.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         “When it enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Congress significantly limited the circumstances under which a habeas petitioner may obtain relief.” Hardy v. Allen, 2010 WL 9447204, at *7 (N.D. Ala. Sep. 21, 2010). To prevail on a § 2254 claim adjudicated on the merits by the state courts, a petitioner must show that a decision by the state courts was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts, in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. §2254(d)(1) & (2); see Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 & 412-13 (2000).

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” federal law either if it fails to apply the correct controlling authority, or if it applies the controlling authority to a case involving facts “materially indistinguishable” from those in a controlling case, but nonetheless reaches a different result. Williams, 529 U.S. at 404-06; Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). A state court's decision is an “unreasonable application” of federal law if it either correctly identifies the governing rule but then applies it to a new set of facts in a way that is objectively unreasonable, or it extends or fails to extend a clearly established legal principle to a new context in a way that is objectively unreasonable. Williams, 529 U.S. at 407.

         “Objectively unreasonable” means something more than an “erroneous” or “incorrect” application of clearly established law, and a reviewing federal court may not substitute its judgment for the state court's even if the federal court, in its own independent judgment, disagrees with the state court's decision. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 411; Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76 (2003). The reviewing court “must determine what arguments or theories supported or … could have supported[ ] the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). “This is a ‘difficult to meet, ' and ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Cullen v. Pinholster, 536 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (internal citations omitted).

         Federal courts are likewise directed to determine whether the state court based its findings on “an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). A state court's determinations of fact shall be “presumed to be correct, ” and the habeas petitioner “shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. Sufficiency of the Evidence ...


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