Sanders v. Lashbrook
ORDER DISMISSING CASE without prejudice to any other habeas petition or civil rights action that petitioner wishes to file. Signed by Judge David R. Herndon on 4/12/2018. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 18-cv-513-DRH
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, District Judge:
Petitioner Keith Sanders, who is currently incarcerated at Menard
Correctional Center, brings this federal habeas corpus action pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). Petitioner was convicted in Illinois state court of 2
counts of First Degree Murder on September 27, 1994. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Petitioner
was a juvenile at the time of the crime.
(Doc. 1, p. 6).
He was originally
sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Petitioner appealed his
original sentence to the Illinois Appellate Courts, but not to the state Supreme
Court; his conviction was affirmed in June of 1996. (Doc. 1, p. 2). Petitioner also
filed a petition for post-conviction relief that was denied in 1998. (Doc. 1, p. 4).
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460
(2012), Petitioner filed a subsequent petition for post-conviction relief in state
court in 2015, arguing that his mandatory life sentence was unconstitutional.
(Doc. 1, p. 8). He was re-sentenced to another life sentence on September 13,
2017. Id. Petitioner alleges that the life sentence remains unconstitutional. (Doc.
1, p. 6). He has filed a motion to reconsider his resentencing in the state court,
but it remains pending, and several of Petitioner’s hearing dates have been
Petitioner contends that his motion to reconsider, filed on November 15,
2017, should have already been decided. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Petitioner contends
that he filed his state-court action 3 years ago and that he has been waiting 5
months for a ruling on his Motion to Reconsider. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Petitioner also
generally argues (and presumably raises in the state-court motion to reconsider)
that the discretionary life sentence he received on September 13, 2017 was
improper and unconstitutional pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460
(2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (U.S. 2016). (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Petitioner concedes that he has not exhausted his state court remedies, but
asks this Court to “take the case from St. Clair County” due to the inordinate
delay of the state court proceedings, and sentence Petitioner to time served. (Doc.
1, p. 18). Petitioner also appears to be alleging that he is actually innocent of the
crime, although he submits no facts in support of that contention. Id.
This matter is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the petition
pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District
Courts. Rule 4 provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court
judge, “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the
petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the
petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” Dismissal of the petition is
appropriate under this standard.
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) grants federal courts jurisdiction to entertain an
application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person who is in custody
pursuant to a judgment of a state court on the ground that the person is in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.
Before a state prisoner’s claims may be addressed in federal court, however, the
law requires him to exhaust his state court remedies or show cause and prejudice
for his failure to exhaust. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); McAtee v. Cowan, 250 F.3d
506, 508-09 (7th Cir. 2001). In order to exhaust his remedies, a state prisoner
must fairly present his claims in each appropriate state court including a state
supreme court with powers of discretionary review. Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S.
27, 29 (2004). State prisoners “must give the state courts one full opportunity to
resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State’s
established appellate review process.” O’Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845
(1999). A prisoner need not pursue all separate state remedies that are available
to him, but he must give the state courts “one fair opportunity to pass upon and
correct the alleged violations.”
McAtee, 250 F.3d at 509; Farrell v. Lane,
939 F.2d 409, 410 (7th Cir. 1991) (“Exhaustion is accomplished when claims
have been presented to the highest state court for a ruling on the merits, or, when
the claims could not be brought in state court because no remedies remain
available at the time the federal petition is filed.”). If a petitioner “has the right
under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question
presented,” a petitioner will not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies
available in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c).
Petitioner is currently in the process of exhausting his state court remedies.
Should his motion for reconsideration be denied, Petitioner may appeal the
decision to the Illinois Appellate Courts, and up to the Illinois State Supreme
Court. Petitioner has not alleged that this avenue is unavailable to him.
That said, the Seventh Circuit has suggested that unjustifiable delays in a
direct criminal appeal may excuse a state petitioner from the exhaustion
requirement and even give rise to an independent due process claim under the
Allen v. Duckworth, 6 F.3d 458 (7th Cir. 1993)
(assuming, without deciding, that excessive delay in state criminal appeal may
amount to a denial of due process).
Petitioner has not raised a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim in his § 2254 petition.
He also appears to
consider the entire length of time that his state case has been pending—more than
3 years—to constitute inordinate delay. But the facts he submitted do not suggest
On the contrary, it appears that Petitioner’s original motion for
resentencing was granted, arguments related to resentencing were heard, and
then the court actually resentenced Petitioner; Petitioner just did not like the
ultimate result. The Court does not consider the 5-month delay in ruling on the
motion to reconsider excessive, and there is a pending hearing scheduled in the
matter for May 15, 2018. Harris v. Champion, 938 F.2d 1062 (10th Cir. 1991)
(4-year delay in briefing appeal excused state habeas petitioner from exhausting
his state remedies).
Further, Petitioner offers no reason why the delays are
unjustifiable or attributable solely to the state, and he appears to be represented
by counsel in that action.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to
relief because he has failed to exhaust his state court remedies.
The § 2254
petition is therefore dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED without prejudice to any
other habeas petition or civil rights action that petitioner wishes to file.
Should petitioner desire to appeal this Court’s ruling dismissing his
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, he must first secure a certificate of
appealability, either from this Court or from the Court of Appeals. See FED. R.
APP. P. 22(b); 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1).
Pursuant to Rule 11(a) of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, the Court
must issue or deny a certificate of appealability “when it enters a final order
adverse to the applicant.” Id. This petition has been dismissed without prejudice
because petitioner failed to exhaust his state court remedies prior to filing his
§ 2254 petition.
Except in special circumstances, such a dismissal without
prejudice is not a final appealable order, so a certificate of appeal ability is not
required. See Moore v. Mote, 368 F.3d 754, 755 (7th Cir. 2004).
Further, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253, a certificate of appealability may
issue “only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a
This requirement has been interpreted by the Supreme
Court to mean that an applicant must show that “reasonable jurists would find
the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong.”
Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Petitioner need not show that his
appeal will succeed, Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 337 (2003), but
petitioner must show “something more than the absence of frivolity” or the
existence of mere “good faith” on his part. Id. at 338 (citation omitted). If the
district court denies the request, a petitioner may request that a circuit judge
issue the certificate. FED. R. APP. P. 22(b)(1)-(3).
Here, no reasonable jurist would find it debatable whether this Court’s
ruling on the failure to exhaust state judicial remedies was correct. Accordingly, a
certificate of appealability shall NOT be issued.
The Clerk is DIRECTED to close this case and enter judgment accordingly.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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