Ernst v. White
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER filed by Shawn William Ernst: 1) Magistrate Judge's Recommended Disposition 19 is ADOPTED and INCORPORATED by reference. 2) Ernst's motion to vacate under 28 USC § 2254 1 is DISMISSED with prejudice, and STRICKEN from the docket. 3) A Certificate of Appealability will not issue. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 2/12/2018.(TJZ)cc: COR, Shawn Ernst via US Mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
SHAWN WILLIAM ERNST,
RANDY WHITE, Warden,
Civil Action No. 2: 17-219-DCR
This matter is pending for consideration of Petitioner Shawn William Ernst’s petition
to vacate his state court conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [Record No. 1] Consistent with
local practice, Ernst’s § 2254 motion was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for
review and issuance of a report pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). United States Magistrate
Judge Robert E. Wier completed an initial review of the petition and perceived it as timebarred. [Record No. 13] Ernst was permitted to file a response brief regarding the timeliness
of his petition and Defendant Randy White was permitted to reply. Upon completion of
briefing by the parties, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Ernst’s § 2254 petition be
dismissed as untimely. [Record No. 19]
Although this Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the
Magistrate Judge’s recommendations to which objections are made, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C),
“[i]t does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate’s
factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects
to those findings.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). More than 14 days have passed
and neither party has filed objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation. See id.
Nevertheless, the Court has examined the record and, having made a de novo determination,
agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s Recommended Disposition.
Shawn William Ernst was convicted in 2002 of kidnapping and murdering Sandra Kay
Roberts. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole for capital kidnapping. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed his
convictions and sentences on April 21, 2005. Ernst v. Com., 160 S.W.3d 744 (Ky. 2005).
Ernst did not file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court and his
convictions became final on July 20, 2005. See McClendon v. Sherman, 329 F.3d 490, 493
(6th Cir. 2003); Sup. Ct. R. 13.
A one-year period of limitations applies to bringing an application for a writ of habeas
corpus by a person in custody pursuant to a state-court judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The
limitations period does not run when a properly filed application for state post-conviction or
other collateral relief is pending. § 2241(d)(2). Ernst filed a motion in state court for postconviction relief, but he did not do so until March 25, 2008—more than two years and eight
months after his conviction became final. Accordingly, his § 2254 petition was not filed within
the one year limitations period and is not timely.
Ernst argues that the statute of limitations should not be enforced strictly and that
equitable tolling should apply. This doctrine applies only when rare circumstances beyond the
petitioner’s control have prevented him from raising a timely habeas claim. See Keenan v.
Bagley, 400 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir. 2005). To warrant equitable tolling, the petitioner must
show “that he has been pursuing his rights diligently” and “that some extraordinary
circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Hall v. Warden, 662 F.3d 745,
749 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Holland v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010)).
Ernst presents two distinct arguments in favor of equitable tolling. The first is that he
is actually innocent of capital kidnapping because the victim was already dead when he placed
her body in the trunk of his car. However, Ernst has not identified any new facts which raise
doubts about his guilt or undermine confidence in the result of the trial. See Souter v. Jones,
395 U.S. 577 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 317 (1995)). Instead, he
makes arguments based on the victim’s autopsy report which was available at the time of trial.
Accordingly, he is not entitled to equitably tolling on this basis.
Ernst also seeks equitable tolling based on allegations of mental illness and a history of
childhood abuse. Ernst suggests that, during the relevant time period, he felt depressed and
suffered from low self-esteem. [Record No. 16, pp. 6-7] But as the Magistrate Judge
explained, general allegations of mental illness are not tantamount to mental incapacity.
Further, there is no indication that Ernst lacked the ability to file a habeas petition within the
one-year limitations period. He demonstrated the ability to file numerous post-conviction
motions in state court, notwithstanding his allegations of longstanding mental illness. See
McSwain v. Davis, 287 F. App’x 450, 457 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Price v. Lewis, 119 F. App’x
725, 726-27 (6th Cir. 2005)). Ernst has not met his burden of establishing that he is entitled
to equitable tolling on the basis of mental illness.
Finally, a Certificate of Appealability will not issue because reasonable jurists would
not debate whether the Court was correct in its ruling. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473,
484 (2000). Based on the foregoing analysis, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
The Magistrate Judge’s Recommended Disposition [Record No. 19] is
ADOPTED and INCORPORATED, by reference.
Ernst’s motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Record No. 1] is
DISMISSED, with prejudice, and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.
A Certificate of Appealability will not issue.
This 12th day of February, 2018.
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