Stansell v. Grafton Correctional Institution Warden
Memorandum of Opinion and Order: For the reasons set forth herein and for the reasons set forth in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is denied. Furthermore, the Court certifies, purs uant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith, and that there is no basis upon which to issue a certificate of appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c); Fed.R.App.P. 22(b). Judge Patricia A. Gaughan on 8/30/17. (LC,S) re 18
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
LaShann Eppinger, Warden,
CASE NO. 1:15 CV 1303
JUDGE PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN
Memorandum of Opinion and Order
This matter is before the Court upon the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate
Judge Greenberg (Doc. 18) which recommends denial of the Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus pending before the Court. Petitioner filed objections to the recommendation. For the
following reasons, the Report and Recommendation is ACCEPTED.
Standard of Review
Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts provides, “The judge must determine de novo any proposed finding or
recommendation to which objection is made. The judge may accept, reject, or modify any
proposed finding or recommendation.”
In 1998, petitioner entered a plea of guilty to charges of rape, rape with an SVP
(sexually violent predator) specification, corruption of a minor, gross sexual imposition with
an SVP specification, illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, and pandering
sexually-oriented matter involving a minor. Petitioner was sentenced to 20 years to life, and
found to be a sexual predator. A 2002 habeas corpus petition was denied. Following motions
filed in the trial court and a remand by the court of appeals, petitioner was re-sentenced in
2014 by the state court to the same sentence but with the addition of a term of mandatory post
release control. This second Petition was subsequently filed asserting one ground for relief
wherein petitioner alleged that he was deprived of due process where the indictment and
evidence were insufficient to sustain the SVP specification.
This Court is in accord with the initial decision of the Magistrate Judge to decline to
decide the statute of limitations question given the unsettled nature of the applicable law, and
the fact that the claim is both procedurally defaulted and lacking in merit. The Court disagrees
with petitioner’s objection that the “current state of the law clearly establishes” that his
Petition is not untimely.
Next, the Magistrate Judge found petitioner’s ground for relief, asserting a due process
claim, to be procedurally defaulted given that it was not fairly presented in the state courts.
The Magistrate Judge noted that petitioner did not assert a claim on direct appeal or in
collateral proceedings alleging that petitioner’s due process rights were violated when he was
classified as a sexually violent predator which resulted in the imposition of the life sentence.
Petitioner objects, raising the same argument as asserted in his Traverse. He claims that by
arguing in his appeal of his motion to vacate the SVP specification that without the inclusion
of the necessary elements (force or proof of a prior similar conviction) for the SVP
enhancement, the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction to impose the life
sentence. Petitioner maintains that it is well-settled that a lack of subject matter jurisdiction is
fundamentally a due process claim. This Court finds that an assertion that subject matter
jurisdiction was lacking is not the equivalent of putting the state court on notice that it was
being called upon to determine whether petitioner’s due process right was violated when he
was designated a sexually violent predator.
Even assuming the claim is not procedurally defaulted, the Magistrate Judge
proceeded to a review of the merits and rejected the claim. This Court agrees. To the extent
petitioner asserts that the trial court erred in its application of the Ohio Revised Code
(because in the absence of force or a prior similar conviction, the SVP specification was
unwarranted), the claim is non-cognizable on habeas review as a state court determination on
a state law question. To the extent petitioner asserts that his SVP designation violates due
process, defendant’s plea of guilty effectively eliminated the government’s burden to prove
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, petitioner waived any objection to the sufficiency of
For these reasons and those stated in the Report and Recommendation, which is
incorporated herein, the Petition is denied.
For the reasons set forth herein and for the reasons set forth in the Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is denied. Furthermore,
the Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could
not be taken in good faith, and that there is no basis upon which to issue a certificate of
appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c); Fed.R.App.P. 22(b).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Patricia A. Gaughan
PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN
United States District Court
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