Chinn v. Warden Mansfield
DECISION AND ORDER - Because Chinn's proposed lethal injection invalidity amendments do not state claims upon which habeas corpus relief can be granted, the Motion to Amend to add them (ECF No. 155) is DENIED. On the basis of Coley, supra, the Motion to Amend to add claims under Hurst (ECF No. 145) is again DENIED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz on 11/8/2017. (kpf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
- vs -
Case No. 3:02-cv-512
Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz
CHARLOTTE JENKINS, Warden,
Chillicothe Correctional Institution,
DECISION AND ORDER
In this capital habeas corpus case, the Magistrate Judge granted Petitioner leave to amend
his Petition to add four lethal injection invalidity claims for relief, Grounds Twenty-Four,
Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, and Twenty-Seven (ECF No. 160). The Warden objected (ECF No.
165), Chief Judge Sargus recommitted the matter (ECF No. 166), and the Magistrate Judge filed
a Second Supplemental Report and Recommendations, recommending that the Warden’s
Objections be overruled (ECF No. 169). The same Report also recommends that Petitioner not
be allowed add claims under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016). Multiple
Objections and Responses were filed (ECF Nos. 170, 172, 173, 174).
The Chief Judge had not yet reached these objections for decision when the Sixth Circuit
decided In re Campbell, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21094 (6th Cir. Oct. 25, 2017).
On the basis of that decision, the Magistrate Judge vacated prior filings and ordered Petitioner
to show cause . . why, in light of Campbell, the Court should not
deny leave to add lethal injection invalidity claims to this habeas
corpus case, particularly in light of the pendency of In re Ohio
Execution Protocol Litig., Case No. 2:11-cv-1016, in which Mr.
Chinn is a Plaintiff.
(Entry, ECF No. 182, PageID 10241.) Petitioner has timely responded (Response, ECF No.
183), and the Warden has replied to the Response (ECF No. 185)
Chinn first argues that his lethal injection invalidity claims remain cognizable under
Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306 (6th Cir. 2016).1 Chinn relies on Davis v. Warden, No. 2:10cv-107, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16152 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 2, 2017). Davis follows the logic adopted
by the undersigned in a number of cases2 that Adams III recognizes a category of lethal injection
invalidity claims which are still cognizable in habeas corpus despite Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct.
2726 (2015), and In re: Tibbetts, 869 F.3d 403 (6th Cir. 2017). But Davis was decided October
2, 2017, before Campbell was handed down.
Chinn next argues Campbell’s statements related to cognizability “are entitled to little, if
any, precedential weight [because] [a] dismissal under § 2244(b) is not a decision on the merits
of the underlying claims.” (ECF No. 183, PageID 10244). This argument runs against the
obvious intent of the Sixth Circuit in Campbell to clarify the cognizability question:
Campbell maintains that his current claims are properly raised in a
habeas proceeding. Because the law on this subject is not clear and
has been the subject of several recent, published decisions by this
Circuit and the Supreme Court, we pause at the outset to clarify the
In re Campbell, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21094, *5. And as the Campbell court also notes, the
There are three published opinions of the Sixth Circuit in Stanley Adams’ habeas corpus case: Adams v.
Bradshaw, 644 F.3d 481, 483 (6th Cir. 2011); Adams v. Bradshaw, 817 F.3d 284 (6th Cir. March 15, 2016); and
Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306 (6th Cir. June 13, 2016), cert. den. sub. nom. Adams v. Jenkins, 137 S. Ct. 814,
106 L. Ed. 2d 602 (2017), referred to herein as Adams I, Adams II, and Adams III respectively.
Including in the Second Supplemental Report and Recommendations (ECF No. 169) in this case.
language this Court had been relying on from Adams III was itself dictum because the Adams
court held against the petitioner on the merits.
Davel Chinn is a plaintiff in In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litig., Case No. 2:11-cv1016 (the “Protocol Case”). That case seeks to permanently enjoin Ohio from executing him and
most other Ohio death row inmates under its current lethal injection protocol, which was adopted
October 7, 2016. That protocol has already been the subject of extensive litigation, e.g., In re:
Ohio Execution Protocol Litig. (Phillips, Tibbetts, & Otte), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11019 (S.D.
Ohio Jan 26, 2017), rev’d, 860 F.3d 881 (6th Cir. June 28, 2017)(en banc); cert den. sub nom.
Otte v. Morgan, ___ U.S. ___, 2017 WL 3160287 (July 25, 2017); In re: Ohio Execution
Protocol Litig. (Otte), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145432 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 8, 2017); In re: Ohio
Execution Protocol Litig. (Campbell & Tibbetts), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182406 (S.D. Ohio
Nov. 3, 2017).
A civil rights action under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 offers the capital litigant many advantages
over a habeas corpus action. Among other things, it is not subject to the second-or-successive
limitation or the limits on discovery in habeas corpus. Because it is forward looking instead of
focused on what happened in the state courts, it is not limited in the introduction of evidence
imposed in habeas by § 2254(d) as interpreted in Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011).
Even before the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (the "AEDPA")
vastly increased the procedural restrictions on habeas corpus, the Supreme Court held a district
court could not grant release from confinement in a § 1983 action; to do so would frustrate the
habeas exhaustion requirements. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973). It was in Nelson v.
Campbell, 541 U.S. 637 (2004), that the Supreme Court first held that a means or method of
execution claim could be brought in a § 1983 case, over the objection of state officials who
insisted that such a claim had to be brought in habeas corpus and which would, in Nelson’s case,
have been subject to the second-or-successive requirement imposed by the AEDPA. The Court
unanimously concluded that, because Nelson’s challenge to the method of execution (a vein cutdown procedure) did not challenge his actual death sentence, it could be brought in a § 1983
Cooey v. Taft, Case No. 2:04-cv-1156, a § 1983 action which is the direct predecessor of
the Protocol Case, was filed December 8, 2004, and references an earlier filing in Case No. 2:04cv-532 on June 10, 2004, less than a month after Nelson was decided. As consolidated in the
Protocol Case, Cooey remains pending. The same organizations of attorneys who provide
representation to plaintiffs in the Protocol Case – the Capital Habeas Units of the Offices of the
Federal Public Defender for the Southern and Northern Districts of Ohio and the Ohio Public
Defender’s Office – also represent most of the capital habeas corpus petitioners in this Court.
Thus the litigation context provides maximal opportunities for coordination of strategy. To this
Court’s eye, those opportunities are never squandered.
Petitioners’ bar has had an apparent strategy for some years to have parallel habeas and §
1983 actions pending simultaneously on behalf of the same inmate and raising substantively
parallel claims. Implementation of this strategy has been supported by the series of decisions of
the Sixth Circuit in Stanley Adams’ habeas corpus case from the Northern District of Ohio. (see
footnote 1, supra.)
In Adams I the circuit court held, over Ohio’s objection, that a challenge to the method of
lethal injection could be brought in habeas corpus as well as in a § 1983 action. That is to say,
availability of the § 1983 cause of action did not logically imply the absence of a § 2254 cause of
Attempting to obey Adams I, this Court permitted amendments of capital habeas
petitions to add lethal injection claims and indeed treated those claims as newly arising whenever
Ohio’s lethal injection protocol was amended.
Then the Supreme Court appeared to call this Court’s practice into question with its
decision in Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726 (2015):
Petitioners contend that the requirement to identify an alternative
method of execution contravenes our pre-Baze [v. Rees, 533 U.S.
35 (2008)] decision in Hill v. McDonough, 547 U. S. 573, 126 S.
Ct. 2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44 (2006), but they misread that decision.
The portion of the opinion in Hill on which they rely concerned a
question of civil procedure, not a substantive Eighth Amendment
question. In Hill, the issue was whether a challenge to a method of
execution must be brought by means of an application for a writ of
habeas corpus or a civil action under §1983. Id., at 576, 126 S. Ct.
2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44. We held that a method-of-execution
claim must be brought under §1983 because such a claim does
not attack the validity of the prisoner’s conviction or death
sentence. Id., at 579-580, 126 S. Ct. 2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44.
135 S.Ct. at 2738 (emphasis added). Changing course, this Court concluded the “must be
brought” language in Glossip precluded what it had been doing under Adams I. Then, in Adams
II as clarified by Adams III, the Sixth Circuit decided Glossip did not implicitly overrule Adams
I. Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306, 318-21 (6th Cir. 2016), cert den. sub nom. Adams v.
Jenkins, 137 S.Ct. 814, 196 L. Ed. 2d 602 (2017). This Court changed course again and
recognized lethal injection invalidity claims as cognizable in habeas.
Campbell changes the analysis. Campbell, like Tibbetts, was also before the Sixth Circuit
on a second-or-successive transfer from this Court. Interpreting Glossip, the circuit court held
Glossip therefore closed the hypothetical door left open by Nelson,
Hill, and Adams II. No longer can a method-of-execution claim
impair a death sentence itself. And since a method-of-execution
claim can no longer "attack the validity of the prisoner's conviction
or death sentence," a habeas court cannot act upon it. Id. at 2738.
Thus, the Glossip Court necessarily barred all habeas petitions
challenging "a particular application of a particular protocol to a
particular person" as unconstitutionally painful. In re Tibbetts, 869
F.3d 403, 406 (6th Cir. 2017). These challenges are properly
remedied by an injunction prohibiting the state from taking certain
actions, rather than a writ of habeas corpus that vacates the
Campbell at *11-12 (emphasis in original). The Campbell court noted the language in Adams III
on which capital petitioners and this Court have relied to justify pleading lethal-injectioninvalidity claims in habeas and declared that language to be non-binding dictum. Id. at *15. It
[T]o the extent that Adams III purported to permit Baze-style
habeas claims that refuse to concede the possibility of an
acceptable means of execution, it is not controlling. Since Glossip's
holding directly addressed that question, it is binding on us, and we
follow it today. In doing so, we do not intend to diminish the
importance or correctness of the holding in Adams II that § 1983
and habeas are not mutually exclusive as a per se rule. All Baze
and Glossip require is that— in the peculiar context of method-ofexecution claims—the death-row inmate must proceed under §
Campbell, supra, at *15.
In allowing Grounds Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, and Twenty-Seven to be
added to the Petition, this Court was attempting to follow Adams III faithfully. Because Adams
III was written to clarify Adams II at the request of one of the parties, this Court assumes the
added language in Adams III was carefully chosen. Moore’s Federal Practice notes, however,
that “it is not always clear what the holding is in a particular case” because “[h]oldings may be
given broad or narrow interpretations.” 18 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore’s Federal Practice
§134.03 (3d ed. 1999). Even language that is dictum may be carefully chosen. In any event,
if the relevant language in Adams III does not bind or no longer binds subsequent Sixth Circuit
panels, it does not bind this Court. Campbell does, particularly because it interprets the language
the Supreme Court used in Glossip: “a method-of-execution claim must be brought under
Chinn concludes this portion of his argument by stating, “This Court should conclude that
rulings of this nature [i.e., on the second-or-successive question under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)] have
limited precedential value with respect to the merits of the petitioner’s underlying claims.” (ECF
No. 183, PageID 10245). This argument parallels arguments the petitioners’ bar has made on the
second-or-successive question in this Court which suggest we find second-in-time petitions are
not second-or-successive and retain jurisdiction, deciding the claims on the merits. As the
undersigned has pointed out before, this approach creates a significant risk that the Court will
waste large amounts of time deciding issues over which the Sixth Circuit may eventually decide
it had no jurisdiction. The cost of that risk is borne entirely by the Court (in wasted time) and the
State (in delay) and not by petitioners, on whom delay imposes no cost at all. When a published
decision of the Sixth Circuit speaks directly to an issue which has bedeviled the district courts
since Adams I, it should be read as having the precedential effect its authors apparently intended.
It is usually a vain hope for the district courts to wait for en banc or certiorari clarification.3
The Magistrate Judge has already applied this understanding of Campbell in Bays v.
Warden, No. 3:08-cv-076, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183511 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 6, 2017).
Chinn’s last argument is that Campbell does not apply to his Twenty-Seventh Ground for
Relief which reads:
TWENTY-SEVENTH GROUND FOR RELIEF: The State of
Ohio cannot constitutionally execute Petitioner because Ohio’s
violations of federal law constitute a fundamental defect in the
execution process, and the only manner of execution available for
This Court waited many months in many cases for a clarification of Glossip on certiorari in Adams III . It never
came. See Adams v. Jenkins, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 766 (U.S., Jan. 17, 2017), denying certiorari in Adams III.
execution depends on state execution laws that are preempted by
A. DRC’s actions in obtaining execution drugs, its import,
administration (and any other terms of art under the CSA) of those
drugs violate the CSA.
B. DRC’s actions in obtaining execution drugs, its import,
administration (and any other terms of art under the FDCA) of
those drugs contravene the FDCA because those drugs used in an
execution are unapproved drugs and/or misbranded drugs and/or
constitute unapproved Investigational New Drugs.
C. DRC’s actions in obtaining compounded controlled substances
for use as execution drugs, its import, purchase, possession,
dispensing, distribution and/or administrations (and any other
terms of art under the CSA or FDCA) of those drugs violate
D. The violations of federal statutory law committed by the State of
Ohio will amount to a fundamental defect in the execution process
warranting habeas corpus relief.
(ECF No. 155-1, PageID 9946-47.)
This is not an Eighth Amendment claim, Chinn says, but a statutory claim, and Campbell
speaks only to claims based on the Eighth Amendment (Response, ECF No. 183, PageID 1024547).
In its prior Order allowing amendment to add this claim, neither the Court nor the parties
analyzed it separately from the Eighth Amendment claims. Over the Warden’s objections, the
Court found it fit within the “cognizability window” recognized in Adams III (ECF No. 160,
In the Campbell case itself in this Court Petitioner Campbell sought to plead as a Fourth
Ground for Relief a claim which is a verbatim copy of Chinn’s Twenty-Seventh Ground for
Relief (See Case No. 2:15-cv-1702, ECF No. 47-1, PageID 822). Thus a claim identical to
Chinn’s was before the Sixth Circuit when it decided Campbell; it was among the “current
claims” referred to by the circuit court in its decision. Campbell at *5. As to all of those claims,
the circuit court wrote:
We simply hold that, on these facts, Campbell has not presented
any new habeas claims that (if meritorious) would require us to
vacate his death sentence. As we noted in rejecting Campbell's first
argument—even if we were to agree with Campbell on the
substance here, Ohio would still be permitted to execute him. The
proper method for Campbell to bring these claims is in a § 1983
action under Baze—as he has done in the district court. See In re
Ohio Execution Protocol Litig. if he prevails on the merits, the
district court will enjoin Ohio officials from executing Campbell
by lethal injection. Again, his claim is newly ripe, but he is here
attempting to seek relief in the wrong forum.
Campbell at *19-20. If Campbell’s proposed Fourth Ground for Relief did not state a claim
cognizable in habeas, then neither does Chinn’s identically worded Twenty-Seventh Ground.
Chinn, like Campbell, is a party to In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litig., Case No. 2:11cv-1016, and has pleaded parallel claims in the Fourth Amended Omnibus Complaint. (See ECF
No. 1252, PageID 45852-60, in that case, particularly the Thirtieth Cause of Action under the
Due Process Clause and the Thirty-First Cause of Action under the Equal Protection Clause.)
Claims Under Hurst
Petitioner also previously moved to amend to add claims under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.
Ct. 616 (2016)(ECF No. 145). The Magistrate Judge denied that Motion (ECF No. 148).
Petitioner objected (ECF No. 153) and Chief Judge Sargus recommi9ttd the matter (ECF No.
154). In a Supplemental Memorandum Opinion, the Magistrate Judge adhered to his decision
that Hurst does not apply retroactively (ECF No. 159). Chinn objected (ECF No. 164) and Chief
Judge Sargus again recommitted the matter (ECF No. 166). The Second Supplemental Report
and Recommendations (ECF No. 169) contained analysis of both the lethal injection invalidity
claims and the Hurst claims. In ordering Petitioner to show cause regarding Campbell, the
Magistrate Judge withdrew the Second Supplemental Report and Recommendations (ECF No.
182). The parties have not, however, discussed Hurst in their Responses to the Show Cause
To avoid any lack of clarity on the point, the Magistrate Judge again denies leave to
amend to add a claim under Hurst because Hurst does not apply to cases on collateral review
because the Supreme Court has not made it retroactive. In re Coley, 871 F.3d 455 (6th Cir.)
Coley was decided after the Second Supplemental Report and Recommendations was filed, but
confirms its conclusion.
Because Chinn’s proposed lethal injection invalidity amendments do not state claims
upon which habeas corpus relief can be granted, the Motion to Amend to add them (ECF No.
155) is DENIED. On the basis of Coley, supra, the Motion to Amend to add claims under Hurst
(ECF No. 145) is again DENIED.
November 8, 2017.
s/ Michael R. Merz
United States Magistrate Judge
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