Wells v. Wolfe et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Catherine C. Blake on 8/30/2017. (c/m 8/31/2017)(jah, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
WARDEN JOHN S. WOLFE, et al.
Civil Action No. CCB-14-985
Pending is James Hamilton Wells's ("Wells") petition for writ of habeas corpusl filed
pursuant to 28 U.S.c.
to which Wells has replied (Pet'r's
by their counsel, have filed a response (Resp., ECF
Reply, ECF No.7).
pleadings, exhibits, and applicable law, the court finds a hearing unnecessary.
105.6 (D. Md. 2016); Rule 8, "Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings
See Local Rule
in the United States
Courts," 28 U.S.c. folio; see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (stating there
is no entitlement to a hearing under 28 U.S.C.
The petition shall be denied and
dismissed for the reasons that follow.
Wells, who is self-represented,
is challenging his 2010 life sentence in the Circuit Court
for Worcester County, Maryland, for felony murder (Pet., ECF No. 1 at 1-2). The facts of the
case which led to his conviction are summarized as follows.
On April 29, 1977, at approximately
Henry Jackson ("Jackson"),
9:30 a.m., Wells and his co-defendant,
armed with handguns, entered a jewelry shop operated by Bernard
and Charlotte Farber ("Farber").
Jackson v. State, 408 A.2d 711, 713 (Md.
Wells has also filed a supplement to his Petition (Pet. Supp., ECF No.3).
1979). They forced Sugar and Farber to the floor, and took jewelry valued at more than $10,000
from a safe and display cabinets.
Id. Shortly thereafter, Charlene Kelly ("Kelly") entered the
store and asked for Farber. Id. After Wells told her that Farber was not there, but would return
in half an hour, Kelly became suspicious and after leaving the store contacted the police.
Ten minutes later, Howard County police arrived and anno,unced their presence?
started to leave by the front door but, after seeing the police, ran back inside the store. Id. He
and Jackson then attempted to leave by the rear door, but were again deterred by the police and
retreated into the store. Id.
There being no other escape route, Wells grabbed Farber, held her in a headlock, and held
his gun to her neck. (ld.). Jackson did the same with Sugar. Id. at 713-14.
Wells and Jackson,
using Farber and Sugar as shields, left the store by the rear exit, ignoring the police order to stop
and release the hostages.
Id. at 714. They stole a police car and attempted to drive away with
Id. After police gunfire disabled the vehicle, they stole another police car and fled,
still holding the hostages at gunpoint.
Id. They next forced a civilian to stop his car, entered it
with the hostages, and sped away. Id. After evading one roadblock, they were finally stopped at
another roadblock after police gunshots punctured the car's tires. Id.
The police manning the roadblock, unaware of the presence of the hostages, fired at the
car. Id. Officers from three counties as well as state police converged on the scene and placed
the car under heavy gunfire.
Id. One Howard County police officer, armed with a shotgun,
jumped onto the hood of the car. Id. At that moment Wells had his arm out the rear window,
waving a revolver.
Id. The officer swung his shotgun over the top of the car in an attempt to
strike Wells's arm and knock the revolver from his hand. Id. The shotgun discharged.
In the interim, a mailman had also arrived at the store; he attempted to leave but, after a struggle with Wells, was
forced to the floor with Sugar and Farber. Jackson v. State, 408 A.2d 711, 713 (Md. 1979).
pellets from the shotgun hit Sugar, who had been lying in the front seat of the car, in the back of
the neck. Id. Sugar died as a result of the wound. Id. After a struggle, Wells and Jackson were
removed from the vehicle and taken into custody. Id.
Although originally set for trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, the case was
removed to Worcester County on March 3, 1978. Jackson, 408 A.2d at 713 n.1; (Pet., ECF No.
1 at 1). On June 12, 1978, Wells and Jackson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder under the
indictment returned against them, and the State agreed to recommend a life sentence for each of
them and to nol pros all other related charges.
Jackson, 408 A.2d at 713; see also (Pet. Ex. 1,
Mem. & Op. Granting Post Conv. Relief, ECF No. 1-2 at 1 n.l).
Both were sentenced to life in
prison. Jackson, 408 A.2d at 713; see also (Pet., ECF NO.1 at 1). The Court of Special Appeals
of Maryland affirmed the judgments,
as did the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
A.2d at 713,719.
On October 8, 1998, Wells filed a petition for post conviction Relief in the Circuit Court
for Baltimore County.
(Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 5). He raised two grounds
for relief: 1) that the on-the-record
colloquy of the guilty plea was not taken in accordance with
applicable law; and 2) that the State failed to disclose "Brady"
the sentence imposed, requiring a new sentencing hearing.
material that could have affected
(Pet. Ex. 1, Mem. & Op. Granting
Post Conv. Relief, ECF No. 1-2 at 1). The circuit court resolved the first ground against Wells,
finding that it could have been brought in a prior post conviction petition.4
(Id. at 2). However,
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). "Brady" information, or "information that is favorable to a defendant
and material to either 'guilt or punishment[,]' must be disclosed to the defendant in a criminal." (Mem. & Op.
Granting Post Conv. Relief, ECF No. 1-2 at 9) (quoting State v. Wadlow, 611 A.2d 1091, 1097 (Md. 1992), vacated,
335 Md. 122,642 A.2d 213 (1994)).
Wells had filed an earlier post conviction petition, which was denied by an opinion and order dated August 7,
1986. (Mem. & Op. Granting Post Cony. Relief, ECF No. 1.2 at I).
the circuit court found that "Brady" information
was withheld by the State and granted post
conviction relief.5 Id
After hearing, Wells was resentenced on December 19,2000, to life imprisonment.
Suppl., Mem. Op. Denying
Post Conv. Relief, ECF No. 1-1 at 3). Wells did not file an
for leave to appeal this disposition.
As a result, the circuit court's decision became
final on January 18, 2001. See Md. Rule 8-204(b) (providing that application for leave to appeal
be filed within 30 days after entry of judgment
or order from which appeal is sought).
January 15, 2001, Wells filed a motion for review of sentence by a three-judge panel, which was
denied on November
19, 2001. (Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 6). On March 12,
2001, Wells filed a motion for modification
(Id). The motion for modification
motion was denied on April 10,2013.
of sentence in the Circuit Court for Baltimore
was held in abeyance on May 4, 2001. (Id). The
(Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 3).
On July 14, 2009, Wells filed a motion to re-open post conviction proceedings
the alternative, petitioner's
first petition for post conviction relief relating to sentencing, which
was entered on the docket on July 22, 2009.
(Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 2).
Wells alleged that: 1) "the State withheld 'Brady' material and therefore he is entitled to a new
trial or in the alternative to reopen his post conviction;"
and 2) alternatively,
because at re-sentencing
standard of reasonableness."
"he is entitled to a
fell below an objective
(Pet. Suppl. 1, Mem. Op. Denying Post Conv. Relief, ECF No. 1-1
at 3). The motion to reopen post conviction was denied in a memorandum
opinion signed on
October 22, 2010, and docketed on November 8, 2010. (Pet. Suppl. 1, Mem. Op., ECF No. 1-1
5 The "Brady" material in question was a report dated June I, 1977, by the Howard County Police Department
analyzing the police response to the hostage incident. Id. at 4.
at 13; Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 3).
Wells filed a motion to alter, amend, and/or revise judgment,
which was denied on
(Resp. Ex. 1, Crim. Docket, ECF No. 5-1 at 3).
He next filed an
application for leave to appeal the denial of his motion to reopen post conviction to the Court of
Special Appeals of Maryland, raising the following ground: "the Circuit Court erred, as a matter
of law, in denying the Petitioner's
Post Conviction [sic] without according the Petitioner his right
to hearing (and the assistance of counsel at the same) to prove his re-sentencing
due to the ineffective assistance of his counsel at the resentencing hearing."
(Pet., ECF No. 1 at
2). On December 20, 2012, the application was dismissed as untimely filed. (ld. at 3; see also
Pe'r's Reply Ex. 1, Order, ECF No. 7-1 at 3). Wells filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the
Maryland Cou'rt of Appeals, which was denied on April 22, 2013. (Pet., ECF NO.1 at 3; Pet'r's
Reply Ex. 3, Order, ECF No. 7-3 at 2).
Wells filed the instant petition on March 26, 2014.6 He subsequently
to the petition.
filed a supplement
(Pet. Supp., ECF No.3).
On February 23,2016,
the court ordered this case stayed and held in abeyance pending a
decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Woodfolk v. Maynard, et
al., No. 15-6364. (Order, ECF No.8).
On May 23,2017,
Woodfolk, and the mandate issued on June 14,2017.
the Fourth Circuit issued its decision in
Woodfolk v. Maynard, 857 F.3d 531 (4th
Cir. 2017); Mandate, Woodfolk v. Maynard, No. 13-03268 (D.Md. June 14,2017),
ECF No. 34.
On July 18,2017, the court lifted the stay. (Order, ECF No.9).
The petition, received on March 31, 2014, is dated March 26, 2014, and is deemed filed on that date. The "mailbox
rule" applies to prisoners' ~ 2254 motions. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988). An inmate's petition is
timely if deposited in the prison's internal mailing system on or before the last day for filing. Rule 3(d), "Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts," 28 U.S.C. folio.
A one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions in non-capital
person convicted in a state court. See 28 U.S.C. S 2244(d)(1);
cases for a
Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545, 549
The one-year limitation period runs from the latest of the date on which the judgment
became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such
review. See 28 U.S.C. S 2244(d)(1)(A).
The one-year period is tolled while properly filed post-
are pending and may otherwise
tolled. See 28 U.S.C.
S2244(d)(2); Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325,328 (4th Cir. 2000).
argue the petition is time-barred
because the one-year
started running no later than on January 18, 2001, the date the deadline passed for filing an
for leave to appeal the trial court's re-imposition
ECF NO.5 at 4). Respondents
life sentence. (Resp.,
further argue Wells's motion for modification
of sentence, filed
on March 12, 2001, did not serve to toll the limitations period under 28 U.S.C S 2244(d)(2).
(Resp., ECF NO.5 n. 3); see Roberts v. State of Maryland, Civil Action No. 11-1227 (D. Md.
Oct. 29, 2013) (citing Tasker v. State, Civil Action No. 11-1869 (D. Md. Jan. 31, 2013), affd,
517 Fed. Appx. 172 at 172 (4th Cir. 2013) (affirmed because the petitioner's
brief did not
"challenge the basis for the district court's disposition," waiving appellate review of the order)).7.
Thus, because no post conviction or other collateral proceedings were pending in state court to
toll the limitations
period until July 22, 2009, more than eight years later, the one-year
limitations period had long expired when Wells filed his federal petition for habeas relief.
Wells was provided an opportunity
dismissed as time-barred,
to address why his federal petition should not be
including whether equitable tolling applied. (Order, ECF No.6). Wells
advances no argument for equitable tolling. (Pet'r's Reply, ECF No.7).
after his post conviction
Rather, he counters that
petition was denied on October 22, 2010, he filed a motion to alter,
Unpublished opinions are cited for the soundness oftheir reasoning, not for any precedential value.
amend, or revise judgment that was stamped by the court on November 30, 2010. He filed an
for leave to appeal to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on December 28,
20 I 0, which was denied on December 20, 2012. (Pet'r's Reply, ECF NO.7 at 1). He then filed a
petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals on January 31, 2013, which was denied on
April 22, 2013, and he filed this 9 2254 less than one year later on March 26, 2014. Petitioner
appears to reason that his federal petition was timely filed on this basis. See id. This argument is
however, because the limitations period had already started to run on January 18,
2001, and absent filing of an application for state post conviction or other collateral review to
statutorily trigger tolling of the limitations period, the limitations period expired one year later on
January 18, 2002.
Noting that the Fourth Circuit was considering in Woodfolk, among other issues, whether
a 92254 petitioner was entitled under Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. at 550-51 to statutory tolling of the
limitations period during the time a Maryland state motion for modification was pending and the
outcome of that appeal possibly affected resolution of the timeliness
issue presented here, the
court ordered the instant action stayed and held in abeyance pending a decision in Woodfolk.
(Order, ECF NO.8
On May 23, 2017, the Fourth Circuit issued its decision without
reaching whether a motion for modification
tolled the limitations
period. See Woodfolk v. Maynard,
(finding that petitioner Woodfolk's
of sentence filed Maryland State court statutorily
857 F.3d 531 n. 6 (May 23, 2017)
petition was timely on other grounds, the court "need not
alternative argument that his Rule 4-345 motion [for modification]
period under Kholi").
Thus, the line of cases holding
that a motion
of sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345 does not toll the limitations
Section 2244(d) remains unchanged.
See Roberts v. State of Maryland, Civil Action No. 11-
1227 (D. Md. Oct. 29, 2013) (citing Tasker v. State, Civil Action No. 11-1869 (D. Md. Jan. 31,
2013), affd, 517 Fed. Appx. 172 at 172 (4th Cir. 2013) (affirmed because the petitioner's
did not "challenge the basis for the district court's disposition,"
waiving appellate review of the
Wells's March 12, 2001, motion for modification of sentence did not trigger the tolling
provision at 28 U.S.c.
S2244(d)(2) to stop the running of the limitations period, and does not
alter the analysis that the petition is time-barred.
To the extent Wells's delay might be attributed to his lack of understanding
concerning the calculation of the limitations period, unfamiliarity
of the law
with the law may not be used
to justify equitable tolling. See United States v. Sosa, 364 F.3d 507, 512 (4th Cir. 2004).
may issue "only if the applicant has made a substantial
showing of the denial of a constitutional
137 S.Ct. 759, 773 (February 22,2017)
right." 28 U.S.C. S 2253(c)(2); Buck v. Davis, _ U.S._,
(citing Miller-El v. Cockerell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003)).
To meet this burden, an applicant must show that "reasonable jurists could debate whether (or,
for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that
the issues presented were 'adequate to deserve encouragement
to proceed further. '"
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000) (quoting Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880 at 893 and n. 4
When a petition is denied on procedural grounds, a petitioner meets the standard with a
showing that reasonable jurists "would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim
of the denial of a constitutional
right" and "whether
the district court was correct
procedural ruling." (ld. at 478). Wells's claims are dismissed on procedural grounds, and, upon
review of the record, this court finds that he has not made the requisite showing.
therefore declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
Therefore, a certificate of appealability
shall not issue.8
For the foregoing reasons, the court concludes that the petition is time-barred. A separate
order follows denying
the Petition with prejudice
to issue a
certificate of appealability.
Catherine C. Blake
United States District Judge
8 When a district court dismisses a habeas petition solely on procedural grounds, a COA will not issue unless the
petitioner can demonstrate both "(1) 'that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid
claim of the denial ofa constitutional right' and (2) 'that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district
court was correct in its procedural ruling.' " Rose v. Lee, 252 F.3d 676, 684 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)). Denial of a COA in the district court does not preclude Wells from
requesting a COA from the appellate court.
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