Bland v. State of Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 3/2/2016. (KEK)
2016 Mar-02 AM 08:35
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CHESTER LEE BLAND,
THE STATE OF ALABAMA,
Civil Action Number:
Petitioner Chester Lee Bland, an Alabama state prisoner acting pro se, filed
this action seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 2254. (Doc. 1).
On August 5, 2015, the magistrate judge entered a report in which he concluded that
the applicable statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. ' 2244(d)(1), bars Mr. Bland’s
Mr. Bland filed objections to the report and
recommendation. (Doc. 9).
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 objects to a report and recommendation, the district court must “make
a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed
findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id. The Court reviews
for plain error the portions of the report or proposed findings of fact to which no
objection is made. Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 779 n.9 (11th Cir. 1993); see
also United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983) (per curiam), cert.
denied, 464 U.S. 1050 (1984) (“The failure to object to the magistrate’s findings of
fact prohibits an attack on appeal of the factual findings adopted by the district court
except on grounds of plain error or manifest injustice.”) (internal citation omitted);
Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed. Appx. 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006).
Mr. Bland objects to the magistrate judge’s conclusion that he is not entitled
to equitable tolling and that he is not entitled to have otherwise untimely claims
heard on the merits based upon his claim of actual innocence. (Doc. 9).
The Court overrules Mr. Bland’s objections regarding equitable tolling. The
Court understands that Mr. Bland lacks legal training and has depended on other
prisoners with access to less than ideal legal resources.
The Court also
acknowledges Mr. Bland’s argument that he did not fully understand his right to file
a post-conviction federal habeas action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 2254 until he
received assistance from a paralegal who has helped him navigate this federal
proceeding. Nevertheless, when the magistrate judge concluded that Mr. Bland
was not entitled to equitable tolling under these circumstances, the magistrate judge
properly applied case law that is binding upon this Court. (See Doc. 8, pp. 10-11).
That law states that prisoners who face the hurdles that Mr. Bland has described are
not excused from the deadline that the statute of limitations establishes for filing a
federal habeas petition. See e.g., Rivers v. United States, 416 F.3d 1319, 1323 (11th
Cir. 2005) (“[W]hile Rivers’ lack of education may have delayed his efforts to
vacate his state court conviction, the Johnson court rejected similar grounds as an
excuse for delay, reiterating that ‘procedural ignorance [has never been accepted] as
an excused for prolonged inattention when a statute=s clear policy calls for
promptness.’”) (quoting Johnson v. United States, 544 U.S. 295, 311 (2005));
Whiddon v. Dugger, 894 F.2d 1266, 1267 (11th Cir. 1990) (“poor advice by inmate
law clerks” insufficient to establish “cause” required for equitable tolling); Perez v.
Florida, 519 Fed. Appx. 995, 997 (11th Cir. 2013) (“[W]e have not accepted a lack
of a legal education and related confusion or ignorance about the law as excuses for
a failure to file [a petition] in a timely fashion.”).
The Court also overrules Mr. Bland=s objections regarding actual innocence.
Mr. Bland bases his actual innocence claim on the following allegations: “The
district attorney withheld a police report in which the victim alleged that he did not
know the assailant and robber. The victim knew Mr. Bland very well. Given
comprehensive discovery and an evidentiary hearing, Bland can prove his actual and
factual innocence.” (Doc. 7, p. 3).
Mr. Bland argues that this is “substantive
evidence that [he] did not commit the crimes because Bland was well known to the
victim B not ‘unknown.’ They had previously been in a fight over money owed to
Mr. Bland. The easy elimination of a debt and a persistent creditor was the motive
for falsely accusing Mr. Bland after the victim had time to think and fabricate the
identity of the assailant.” (Doc. 9, p. 5).
Mr. Bland has not made a “threshold showing of innocence” justifying a
review of his otherwise time-barred claims because the police report does not raise
“sufficient doubt about [Mr. Bland=s] guilt to undermine confidence in the result of
the trial.” Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 317 (1995)). Mr. Bland suggests that the
State “re-released [the police report] in the last round of discovery requests
documents.” (Doc. 9, p. 5). If the State released the police report in the last round
of discovery, the police report is not “new reliable evidence” that Mr. Bland could
not have presented at trial. McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S. Ct. 1924, 1936 (2013).
If the State did not release the police report before trial, the evidence that Mr. Bland
“was well known to the victim” is not “adequate to show that, had it been presented
at trial, no reasonable juror would have convicted [Mr. Bland].”
gateway should open only when a petition presents >evidence of innocence so strong
that a court cannot have confidence in the outcome of the trial unless the court is also
satisfied that the trial was free of nonharmless constitutional error.’”) (quoting
Schlup, 513 U.S. at 316); see also San Martin v. McNeil, 633 F.3d 1257, 1268 (11th
Cir. 2011) (“[T]the actual innocence exception is “‘exceedingly narrow in
scope[.]’”) (quoting Johnson v. Alabama, 256 F.3d 1156, 1171 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Having reviewed and considered de novo all of the materials in the court file,
including the magistrate judge=s report and recommendation and Mr. Bland’s
objections, the Court ADOPTS the magistrate judge’s findings and ACCEPTS his
recommendation. Accordingly, the Court will DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE
Mr. Bland’s claims because they are barred by the statute of limitations. The Court
concludes that Mr. Bland’s petition does not present issues that are debatable among
jurists of reason. Therefore, the Court will not issue a certificate of appealability.
See 28 U.S.C. ' 2253(c); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484-85 (2000); Rule
11(a), RULES GOVERNING ' 2254 PROCEEDINGS. The Court will enter a separate
final order consistent with this memorandum opinion.
DONE and ORDERED this March 2, 2016.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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