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Williams v. Gordy

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

September 24, 2018

CHRISTOPHER GORDY, Warden, et al., Respondents.



         This is an action for a writ of habeas corpus filed by petitioner Chris Dwayne Williams, pro se, on or about June 13, 2016. (Doc. 1). Williams challenges his 2015 probation revocation. (Doc. 1 at 2; doc. 18 at 1). On May 25, 2018, the magistrate judge to whom the case was referred entered a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), recommending that habeas relief be denied. (Doc. 49). Williams filed timely objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. 50).


         Because the facts of this case are convoluted, the court recites the relevant factual background before addressing Williams' objections.

         In January 2012, in the Circuit Court of Walker County, Williams pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a twenty year split sentence with five years to serve and the balance on supervised probation. State v. Williams, 64-CC-2010-000248.00 (Dkt #52).[1] After being placed on probation, on January 27 or 28, 2015, a Walker County judge signed an arrest order for the petitioner based on misdemeanor theft charges. (Doc. 16-2 at 5; doc. 16-3 at 10). Walker County District Judge Gregory Williams held a bench trial on May 13, 2015, found the petitioner guilty of the misdemeanor charges, and sentenced him to 180 days incarceration, with 40 days imposed and the remainder suspended.[2] (Doc. 16-2 at 27).

         On June 24, 2015, the Walker County Circuit Court revoked Williams's probation based upon the misdemeanor conviction. (Doc. 16-3 at 6, 19; see also 64-CC-2010-000248.70). Williams filed a § 2254 habeas petition in this court on August 12, 2015. (Doc. 16-4). Because Williams had not exhausted his state court remedies prior to filing the habeas action, this court dismissed the § 2254 petition on October 29, 2015, to allow Williams to properly exhaust his claims in state court. (Doc. 16-6; doc. 16-7).

         Williams returned to the Walker County Circuit Court on May 13, 2016, to file a Rule 32 petition challenging his probation revocation. (Doc. 16-8 at 10; see also 64-CC-2010-000248.60). On June 14, 2016, the circuit court denied the petitioner's motion to proceed in forma pauperis due to the amount of funds in Williams's prison account over the proceeding 12-month period. The court then ordered the Rule 32 petition returned to Williams because of the lack of a paid filing fee. (Doc. 16-8 at 22).

         Williams filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus on June 13, 2016.[3] (Doc. 1). In response to it, the respondents explained that, “[a]fter being contacted by the attorney for the Respondents, the District Attorney and the District Court recognized the problems with the criminal proceedings and the adjudication of the Rule 32 petition in the District Court and took steps to correct those problems.” (Doc. 16 at 23). The Walker County District Court thus granted the September 18, 2015, Rule 32 petition challenging the misdemeanor conviction, set aside the May 13, 2015, conviction, and held a new trial after providing the petitioner with counsel through the Walker County Public Defender's office. (Doc. 16 at 24; doc. 16-9); see also 64-DC-2015-90078.61 and 64-DC-2015-90078.00. The district court also granted Williams' in forma pauperis petition. See 64-DC-2015-90078.61 (Dkt. #10). Upon retrial of the misdemeanor Theft of Property Third Degree charge, the state district court again found Williams guilty and sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment on December 5, 2016. See 64-DC-2015-90078.61 (Dkt. #31). Williams filed an appeal of that conviction in the Walker County District Court. See 64-DC-2015-90078.00 (Dkt. #47). That appeal appears still to be pending in the district court as no record of it being docketed in the circuit court is reflected on, the Alabama court docketing system.

         In his reply to the respondents' answer, Williams clarified that in his current petition, he only challenges the probation revocation, and not the misdemeanor theft conviction. (Doc. 18). Specifically, he states, “Williams only challenged circuit court revocation of probation, as was clearly stated on the Rule 32 post conviction form: Only evidence was sent on T.O.P. 3rd to prove how court done.” (Id., at 1; see also doc. 1 at 2, noting that date of judgment of conviction was June 24, 2015). Furthermore, Williams asserts, “PROBLEMS WERE FOUND, AND CORRECTED IN DISTRICT COURT AND SHOULD OF BEEN IN CIRCUIT COURT AS WELL.” (Doc. 18 at 2).

         Since the foregoing proceedings occurred, Williams filed an additional Rule 32 petition and application to proceed in forma pauperis in state court, again challenging the probation revocation by averring errors regarding the 2010 manslaughter conviction. That petition and application remain pending. See 64- CC-2010-000248.61.

         On January 18, 2018, the Walker County District Court convicted Williams on a misdemeanor harassment charge stemming from a complaint filed in 2015, and sentenced him to 90 days incarceration. See 64-DC-2016-901083.00 (Dkt. #41). Williams appealed that conviction to the Walker County Circuit Court, which has set the harassment charge for jury trial on August 6, 2018. See 64-CC-2018-000084.00.


         Williams' objections first focus on his court appointed counsel in the December 2016 retrial of his misdemeanor conviction. He asserts that the public defender did not provide “effective assistance of counsel.” (Doc. 50 at 1, 2). As previously noted, Williams appealed that conviction to the Walker County Circuit Court on December 28, 2016, and that appeal appears to still be pending. Unless and until Williams fully exhausts his misdemeanor conviction in state court, including any challenge to the effectiveness of counsel, he may not challenge that conviction or bring an ineffective assistance of counsel claim through a federal habeas petition. See e.g., O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999) (To exhaust a claim fully, a petitioner must “invok[e] one complete round of the State's established appellate review process.”); Hardy v. Comm'r, Ala. Dep't of Corr., 684 F.3d 1066, 1074 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995). This rule requires the federal courts to allow the state courts to have the first opportunity to correct a constitutional violation. Davila v. Davis, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 2058, 2064 (2017).

         In Alabama, a complete round of the established appellate review process includes an appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, an application for rehearing to that court, and a petition for discretionary review-a petition for a writ of certiorari-filed in the Alabama Supreme Court. Smith v. Jones, 256 F.3d 1135, 1140-41 (11th Cir. 2001); Ala. R. App. P. 39 and 40. Nothing in ...

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