King v. State of Mississippi et al
ORDER denying 12 Motion for Discovery. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden on 9/25/17. (cr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, ET AL.
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER’S MOTION 
This matter comes before the court on the motion  by the petitioner to conduct discovery in
this case filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He seeks “biological evidence” containing DNA that was
collected during the investigation of his criminal prosecution in state court. “A habeas petitioner,
unlike the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course.”
Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904, 117 S.Ct. 1793 (1997). This is because, “[t]he guilt or innocence
determination in state criminal trials is ‘a decisive and portentous event,’” and “‘[f]ederal courts are not
forums in which to relitigate state trials.’” Herrera v. Collins, 113 S.Ct. 853, 861, 506 U.S. 390 (1993)
(citing Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 90 (1977) and Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 887 (1983)
overruled on other grounds).
As such, a federal court’s role is ordinarily limited to a review of the state court’s record –
unless good cause exists to justify discovery. Good cause exists when a habeas corpus petitioner
“establishes a prima facie case for relief.” Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290, 89 S.Ct. 1082, 22
L.Ed.2d 281 (1969), reh’g denied May 5, 1969. When “specific allegations before the court show
reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he
is confined illegally and is therefore entitled to relief, it is the duty of the court to provide the necessary
facilities and procedures for an adequate inquiry.” Id. at 300.
Rule 6 of the Federal Rules Governing Section 2254 Petitions, controls discovery in habeas
corpus proceedings, and echoes this holding, providing in pertinent part:
(a) A judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery. If necessary
for effective discovery, the judge must appoint an attorney for a petitioner who qualifies
to have counsel appointed under 18 U.S.C. §3006A.
(b) A party requesting discovery must provide reasons for the request. The request
must also include any proposed interrogatories and requests for admission, and must
specify any requested documents.
See Rule 6, Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (emphasis added). Discovery may thus proceed only
if the court, in its discretion and for good cause shown, grants leave to do so.
The Fifth Circuit has addressed this issue:
A federal habeas court must allow discovery and an evidentiary hearing only where a
factual dispute, if resolved in the petitioner's favor, would entitle him to relief and the
state has not afforded the petitioner a full and fair evidentiary hearing. Conclusionary
allegations are not enough to warrant discovery under Rule 6 of the Federal Rules
Governing § 2254 Petitions; the petitioner must set forth specific allegations of fact.
Rule 6, which permits the district court to order discovery on good cause shown, does
not authorize fishing expeditions.
Ward v. Whitley, 21 F 3d. 1355, 1367 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted) (emphasis added).
Furthermore, “[t]he burden of showing the materiality of the information requested is on the moving
party.” Stanford v. Parker, 266 F. 3d 442, 460 (6th Cir. 2001) (See also Murphy v. Johnson, 205 F.3d
809, 814 (5th Cir. 2000)).
In the present case, the petitioner has not met this burden; as such, the instant motion  for
discovery is DENIED.
SO ORDERED, this, the 25th day of September, 2017.
/s/ Jane M. Virden
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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