Williams v. Winn
ORDER denying 16 Motion for equitable tolling and transferring 18 Motion for relief from judgment to the USCA as a second or successive habeas petition. Signed by District Judge Victoria A. Roberts. (DPer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CASE NO. 15-10634
HONORABLE VICTORIA A. ROBERTS
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR
EQUITABLE TOLLING (ECF No. 16)
TRANSFERRING PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR RELIEF
FROM JUDGMENT (ECF No. 18) TO THE COURT OF
APPEALS AS A SECOND OR SUCCESSIVE HABEAS PETITION
In 2015, petitioner Bobby Williams filed a pro se habeas corpus petition
challenging his state convictions for first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316,
and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.227b. The convictions arose from a shooting in Detroit on March 13, 2003. The
Michigan Court of Appeals described the evidence against Petitioner as “substantial,”
[t]he victim’s mother identified [Petitioner] as the shooter she saw from
approximately eight feet away in a well-lit area. The victim’s friend, who
saw the shooter come over the fence, immediately ran to the local police
department and gave the police a description of the shooter that matched
[Petitioner]. Sergeant Decker, one of the first officers at the scene,
followed fresh footprints in the snow and found two witnesses who had
just given the shooter a ride. Their description of the shooter also
matched [Petitioner’s] description. They further testified that the man had
a revolver and kept stating that he had to “flick” or shoot someone.
People v. Williams, No. 253123, 2005 WL 839552, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 12, 2005).
The Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner’s convictions, see id., and the Michigan
Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. See People v. Williams, 705 N.W.2d 134 (Mich.
2005). Petitioner’s attempts to obtain additional post-conviction relief were
unsuccessful. He is currently serving a life sentence for the murder conviction.
Petitioner argued in his habeas corpus petition that (1) he was entitled to DNA
testing to establish his innocence, and (2) he was entitled to avail himself of the
prosecution’s plea offer, which he rejected on the advice of counsel. See ECF No. 1.
Respondent Thomas Winn moved for summary judgment and dismissal of the habeas
petition on the basis that Petitioner did not comply with the habeas statute of limitations.
See ECF No. 8. On February 17, 2016, the Court granted Respondent’s motion and
dismissed the habeas petition as time-barred. See ECF No. 11. Petitioner appealed
the Court’s decision, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied
Petitioner’s application for a certificate of appealability. See Williams v. Winn, No. 161341 (6th Cir. Aug. 10, 2016) (unpublished). Currently before the Court are Petitioner’s
motion for equitable tolling, ECF No. 16, and his motion for relief from judgment, ECF
A. The Motion for Equitable Tolling
In his first motion, Petitioner asks the Court to equitably toll the statute of
limitations on the basis that he is innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted and
sentenced. Petitioner contends that one of the prosecution witnesses is actually guilty
of the murder and that he (Petitioner) could not have committed the crime because the
shooter was described as climbing a six-and-a-half foot fence, and it was physically
impossible for Petitioner to have climbed the fence due to his physical disability.
Petitioner also alleges that he is mentally incompetent, that the prosecutor committed
misconduct, and that trial counsel was ineffective.
The habeas statute of limitations is subject to equitable tolling, Holland v. Florida,
560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010), and actual innocence, if proved, serves as a gateway through
which habeas petitioners may pass when the impediment to consideration of the merits
of their constitutional claims is the expiration of the statute of limitations. McQuiggin v.
Perkins, 133 S. Ct. 1924, 1928 (2013). The Court, however, considered and rejected
Petitioner’s arguments regarding equitable tolling and actual innocence in its dispositive
opinion. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, moreover, determined that
reasonable jurists would not debate or disagree with this Court’s determination that
Petitioner was not entitled to equitable tolling and that Petitioner’s new evidence did not
meet the standard for actual innocence. The Court therefore denies as moot
Petitioner’s motion for equitable tolling (ECF No. 16).
To the extent Petitioner is seeking reconsideration of the Court’s opinion and
judgment dismissing his case, the motion is denied because Petitioner has failed to
satisfy the requirements for obtaining reconsideration. Under this Court’s Local Rules,
“[a] motion for rehearing or reconsideration must be filed within 14 days after entry of
the judgment or order.” LR 7.1(h)(1). And, generally,
the Court will not grant motions for rehearing or reconsideration that
merely present the same issues ruled upon by the Court, either expressly
or by reasonable implication. The movant must not only demonstrate a
palpable defect by which the Court and the parties and other persons
entitled to be heard on the motion have been misled but also show that
correcting the defect will result in a different disposition of the case.
Petitioner filed his motion for equitable tolling on May 31, 2016, which was more
than fourteen days after the Court entered its judgment on the docket in February of this
year. Furthermore, Petitioner is merely asserting claims that the Court previously
considered and rejected. Finally, Petitioner has not shown that the Court made a
“palpable defect” in its dispositive opinion. The Court therefore declines to grant
reconsideration of its opinion and judgment dismissing the habeas petition.
B. The Motion for Relief from Judgment
In his second and final motion, Petitioner seeks relief from judgment on the basis
of newly-discovered evidence. The new evidence is a physician’s letter to Petitioner on
July 5, 2016. The physician opines in the letter that, due to weakness in Petitioner’s
legs, Petitioner “would have been unable to scale a fence or even run” at the time of the
crime. Mot. for Relief from J., ECF No. 18, Pg ID 1743.
Petitioner alleges in his motion and supporting brief that he spent thirteen years
attempting to obtain a physician’s opinion on his physical condition. He claims that his
trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective for failing to investigate his physical
condition, for failing to obtain the information provided in the physician’s recent letter to
him, and for failing to defend Petitioner on the basis of his inability to commit the crime.
Petitioner brings his motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 60(b)(2), which permits a federal court to relieve a party from a final
judgment for “newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have
been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b).” The Court must
decide whether Petitioner’s motion for relief from judgment is, in fact, an application for
habeas corpus relief, because habeas petitioners generally may file only one petition for
the writ of habeas corpus. As stated in the relevant statute,
(1) A claim presented in a second or successive habeas corpus
application under section 2254 that was presented in a prior application
shall be dismissed.
(2) A claim presented in a second or successive habeas corpus
application under section 2254 that was not presented in a
prior application shall be dismissed unless-(A) the applicant shows that the claim relies on a new
rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on
collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously
(B)(i) the factual predicate for the claim could not have been
discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence;
(ii) the facts underlying the claim, if proven and viewed in
light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to
establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for
constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have
found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.
28 U.S.C. § 2244(b).
The federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently explained that
[a] petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion is a “second or successive” habeas
application “when it ‘seeks vindication of’ or ‘advances' one or more
‘claims.’ ” Post v. Bradshaw, 422 F.3d 419, 424 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Gonzalez [v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 531-32, 125 S.Ct. 2641 (2005)]. A
“claim,” in turn, “is ‘an asserted federal basis for relief from a state court’s
judgment of conviction.’ ” Ibid. (quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 530, 125
S.Ct. 2641). For example, a habeas petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion
advances claims “when [the petitioner] seeks to add a new ground for
relief or seeks to present ‘new evidence in support of a claim already
litigated.’ ” Moreland [v. Robinson, 813 F.3d 315, 322 (6th Cir. 2016)]
(quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 531, 125 S.Ct. 2641).
Franklin v. Jenkins, __ F.3d __, __, No. 15-3180, 2016 WL 5864892, at *5 (6th Cir. Oct.
As stated by the Supreme Court in Gonzalez, a Rule 60(b) motion that seeks
vindication of a claim by presenting new claims for relief or by presenting new evidence
in support of a claim already litigated
is, if not in substance a “habeas corpus application,” at least similar
enough that failing to subject it to the same requirements would be
“inconsistent with” the statute. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 11. Using Rule
60(b) to present new claims for relief from a state court’s judgment of
conviction – even claims couched in the language of a true Rule 60(b)
motion – circumvents [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s]
requirement that a new claim be dismissed unless it relies on either a new
rule of constitutional law or newly discovered facts. § 2244(b)(2).
Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 531.
Petitioner’s motion for relief from judgment asserts a federal basis for relief from
his state-court conviction in that he alleges new claims regarding his trial and appellate
attorneys. Therefore, the Court must treat his motion as a successive habeas corpus
A habeas petitioner who seeks to file a second or successive habeas corpus
petition must first move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the
district court to consider the application. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A); Magwood v.
Patterson, 561 U.S. 320, 330-31 (2010). “[F]ederal district courts lack jurisdiction to
consider second or successive habeas petitions without preauthorization from the
relevant Court of Appeals.” Franklin, 2016 WL 5864892, at *5. When a petitioner files a
second or successive habeas petition in the district court without prior authorization
from the Court of Appeals, the Court must transfer the petition to the Court of Appeals
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.1 In re Sims, 111 F.3d 45, 47 (6th Cir. 1997).
Section 1631 provides that,
Petitioner has not acquired permission from the Court of Appeals to file a second
or successive habeas petition. Accordingly, the Court orders the Clerk of the Court to
transfer Petitioner’s motion for relief from judgment (ECF No. 18) to the United States
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as a second or successive habeas corpus petition.
S/Victoria A. Roberts
VICTORIA A. ROBERTS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
[w]henever a civil action is filed in a court . . . and that court finds that
there is a want of jurisdiction, the court shall, if it is in the interest of
justice, transfer such action . . . to any other such court in which the action
. . . could have been brought at the time it was filed . . . , and the action . .
. shall proceed as if it had been filed in . . . the court to which it is
transferred on the date upon which it was actually filed in . . . the court
from which it was transferred.
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