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Miller v. Jones

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

July 5, 2018

BERNARD MILLER, Petitioner,
v.
KARLA JONES, et al., Respondents.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner Bernard Miller (“Miller”) is before the court on a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his confinement in state prison. Doc. No. 1.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Coffee County No. CC-2010-118

         The record reflects the following proceedings pertinent to Miller's petition. On November 6, 2012, in Case No. CC-2010-118, Miller pleaded guilty in the Coffee County Circuit Court to the offense of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Doc. No. 13-1 at 3. On January 3, 2013, the trial court sentenced Miller as a habitual offender to 15 years in prison. Id. The sentence was suspended, with Miller placed on three years' probation. Id. at 4.

         In April 2015, probation revocation proceedings were initiated against Miller based on allegations that he violated the terms of his probation by committing a new criminal offense, specifically, theft of property in the second degree. Doc. No. 13-1 at 7-8. Miller was arrested and placed in the Coffee County Jail. A revocation hearing was later held, at which Miller was represented by counsel. Id. at 8-9. On October 7, 2015, the trial court entered an order revoking Miller's probation and ordering that he serve the balance of his 15-year sentence. Id.

         B. Coffee County No. CC-2015-188

         The acts underlying Miller's probation revocation in No. CC-2010-118 resulted in his indictment in Coffee County No. CC-2015-188 on charges of second-degree theft of property. Doc. No. 13-1 at 10. On October 17, 2015, Miller pleaded guilty to the property theft charge. Id. at 10 & 16. On that same date, the trial court sentenced Miller to 84 months in prison, the term to run concurrently with “any and all other sentence(s) the defendant is serving including . . . CC-2010-118.” Id. at 11.

         On October 26, 2015, while he was held in the Coffee County Jail and before he was transported to state prison, Miller requested placement in a community corrections program. Doc. No. 6-2 at 1-3. On November 13, 2015, the trial court entered an order in No. CC-2015-188 (the property theft case) stating that Miller could enter a community corrections program in Dale County “upon compliance with the requirements of the program and the Alabama Community Punishment and Corrections Act.”[2] Id. at 5. On November 16, 2015, Miller was released from the Coffee County Jail and started participating in the community corrections program in Dale County. Doc. No. 13-1 at 1.

         On January 6, 2016, officers with the Enterprise Police Department arrested Miller on new controlled substance charges and placed him in the Coffee County Jail. As a consequence, the trial court ordered Miller's arrest in No. CC-2015-188 based on his violation of the terms of his community-corrections sentence by committing a new criminal offense. Doc. No. 6-3. The trial court directed that Miller's participation in the community corrections program be “tolled” and “commanded [law enforcement officials] to arrest said defendant and detain him in the County Jail until he can be brought before the Court for a hearing to show cause why his participation in Community Corrections should not be terminated.” Id.

         On January 21, 2016, Miller was transported from the Coffee County Jail to Kilby Correctional Facility, and on February 22, 2016, he was transported from Kilby back to the Coffee County Jail for a preliminary hearing on the new controlled substance charge. Doc. No. 1-1 at 2. After the preliminary hearing, Miller was brought before the trial court for a community-corrections revocation hearing, but the trial court continued the revocation hearing to a later date; Miller was then transported back to Kilby. Id. On March 11, 2016, Miller was transported to Ventress Correctional Facility, where he was incarcerated when he filed the instant § 2254 petition on June 30, 2016. Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Miller claims that his confinement in state prison is unconstitutional because the trial court held no revocation hearing on his community-corrections sentence before he was returned to the state penitentiary. Doc. No. 1. He argues that his placement in the community corrections program in November 2015 in No. CC-2015-188 “overrode” the trial court's October 7, 2015 probation revocation order that he serve the balance of his 15-year sentence in No. CC-2010-118. Doc. No. 10 at 4-5; Doc. No. 15 at 3.

         Miller's argument notwithstanding, nothing in the record establishes that Miller's placement in the community corrections program in No. CC-2015-188 overrode the trial court's order that he serve the balance of his 15-year sentence in No. CC-2010-118 upon revocation of his probation in the earlier case. The only case referenced in Miller's request for placement in a community corrections program was No. CC-2015-188, see Doc. No. 6-2 at 1-3, just as the only case referenced in the trial court's orders authorizing Miller's placement in the community corrections program was No. CC-2015-188, see Doc. No. 6-2 at 4-5. Nowhere in the record is there evidence establishing that the trial court's October 7, 2015 revocation order that Miller serve the balance of his sentence in No. CC-2010-118 was superseded by the ...


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