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Morris v. Jones

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

June 1, 2018

KENNETH E. MORRIS, # 163573, Petitioner,
v.
KARLA JONES, et al., Respondents.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case is before the court on a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 1)[1] filed by Alabama inmate Kenneth E. Morris (“Morris”), on May 16, 2016. Morris challenges his convictions for first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, and sexual torture obtained in a 2012 jury trial in the Circuit Court of Houston County. The respondents argue that Morris's petition is time-barred by AEDPA's one-year limitation period. See Doc. Nos. 9 & 11. The undersigned agrees with the respondents and finds that Morris's petition is untimely and should be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 14, 2012, a Houston County jury found Morris guilty of one count of first-degree rape, in violation of § 13A-6-61, Ala. Code 1975; one count of first-degree kidnapping, in violation of § 13A-6-43, Ala. Code 1975; and one count of sexual torture, in violation of § 13A-6-65.1, Ala. Code 1975. On October 23, 2012, the trial court sentenced Morris to consecutive 80-year sentences for the rape and kidnapping convictions; on September 9, 2013, after remand, the trial court sentenced Morris to a concurrent 80-year sentence for the sexual-torture conviction. Doc. No. 9-1 at 91-93; Doc. No. 9-8 at 5-11.

         Morris appealed, arguing that (1) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his rape and kidnapping convictions; (2) the prosecution improperly introduced character evidence in violation of Ala. R.Evid. 404(b); and (3) the trial court erred by failing to give the jury a limiting instruction on prior-bad-acts evidence. On November 1, 2013, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Morris's convictions and sentence by memorandum opinion. Doc. No. 9-11. Morris did not apply for rehearing or file a petition for writ of certiorari with the Alabama Supreme Court. On November 20, 2013, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued a certificate of judgment. Doc. No. 9-12.

         Subsequently, Morris filed a pro se petition in the trial court seeking post-conviction relief under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. Doc. No. 9-13 at 9-46. The Rule 32 petition was accompanied by an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Doc. No. 9-13 at 68-70. In his Rule 32 petition, Morris represented by his signature that he executed the petition on April 10, 2014. Doc. No. 9-13 at 16. The trial court denied Morris's IFP application on May 6, 2014. Doc. No. 9-13 at 6 & 8. Morris subsequently submitted the requisite $266 filing fee on July 7, 2014. Doc. No. 9-13 at 6. The trial court clerk stamped the petition as filed on July 7, 2014. Doc. No. 9-13 at 9.

         Morris's Rule 32 petition presented claims that (1) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions; (2) his convictions for rape and sexual torture violated double jeopardy; (3) his sentence for sexual torture was illegal; and (4) his trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance. The trial court denied Morris's Rule 32 petition on August 13, 2014. Doc. No. 9-13 at 82. Morris appealed, and on March 6, 2015, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment by memorandum opinion. Doc. No. 9-16. That court overruled Morris's application for rehearing on June 5, 2015. Doc. Nos. 9-17 & 9-18. Morris filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Alabama Supreme Court, which that court denied on July 10, 2015. Doc. Nos. 9-19 & 9-20. That same date, a certificate of judgment was issued. Doc. No. 9-20.

         Morris filed the instant 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition on May 16, 2016.[2] As indicated above, the respondents argue that Morris's petition is time-barred under the one-year federal limitation period.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) provides the statute of limitations for § 2254 petitions and states:

(1) 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 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 ...

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