Aldridge v. Holloway
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART RULE 60(B) MOTION, GRANTING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND CERTIFYING LIMITED APPEAL WOULD BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH 41 . Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 6/6/17. (Anderson, S.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART RULE 60(B) MOTION,
GRANTING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
CERTIFYING LIMITED APPEAL WOULD BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH
On April 25, 2017, the Court granted the motion of Respondent, Shawn Phillips, to
dismiss the § 2254 petition as untimely. (Order, ECF No. 39 at 19.) The Court also denied a
certificate of appealability (“COA”), certified that an appeal would not be taken in good faith,
and denied leave to appeal in forma pauperis. (Id. at 20.) Judgment was entered the same day.
(Judgment, ECF No. 40.) Petitioner, through appointed counsel, has filed a Rule 60(b) motion
“to set aside . . . portions of [the Court’s] Order of Dismissal.” (Mot., ECF No. 41 at 1.)
Specifically, Petitioner asks the Court to reconsider its decisions to deny a COA and leave to
appeal in forma pauperis. (Id.) Respondent opposes the motion. (Resp. Br., ECF No. 42.) For
the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
The Court dismissed the petition as untimely after hearing testimony from Aldridge and a
prison unit manager and oral argument from the parties’ attorneys. (Order, ECF No. 39 at 19.)
The Court first rejected Petitioner’s argument that the limitations period should be tolled due to
(Id. at 14-15.)
The Court’s ruling was based, in large part, on its
determination that the unit manager was more credible than Aldridge. The Court also held that
Petitioner had not established a gateway claim of actual innocence to overcome his late filing.
(Id. at 15-19.) Aldridge argued that had the jury heard certain testimony (which had been
excluded by the state trial court), and considered it in light of vulnerabilities in the state’s
evidence, it is more likely than not that no rational juror would have convicted Petitioner.1 The
Court made the probability determination required by McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S. Ct. 1924,
1933 (2013), and ruled against Petitioner. (Order, ECF No. 39 at 18-19.) The Court concluded
that it was not more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found Aldridge guilty of
first degree murder. (Id. at 19.)
Aldridge argues that the Court should have granted a COA as to both the equitable tolling
and actual innocence issues. A COA may issue only if the petitioner has made a substantial
showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253 (c) (2) & (3). A “substantial
showing” is made when the petitioner demonstrates 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.’” MillerEl v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (quoting Slack v. Daniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)). If the
district court rejects a claim on a procedural ground, the petitioner must show “that jurists of
reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a
constitutional right, and that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court
was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack, 529 U.S. at 478. The Supreme Court has cautioned
against undue limitations on the issuance of a COA. See Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 337 (“It is
Petitioner’s underlying habeas claim challenges the state court’s exclusion of that
evidence. At an offer of proof, a police officer testified that the victim had reported to police just
days before his murder that his girlfriend had threatened him and that he was afraid of her. (Pet.,
ECF No. 1 at 5.)
consistent with § 2253 that a COA will issue in some instances where there is no certainty of
Here, reasonable jurists would not debate the correctness of the Court’s equitable tolling
decision. Petitioner argues that the decision is debatable because the unit manager’s testimony
was inconsistent in one respect. The inconsistency, however, was resolved by the Court in
Petitioner’s favor. (See Order, ECF No. 39 at 13 n. 2.) Petitioner has therefore failed to
establish that he is entitled to a COA on equitable tolling. In addition, any appeal on that ground
would not be in good faith.
As for Aldridge’s actual innocence claim, the Court finds that reasonable jurists could
debate the correctness of the Court’s actual innocence probability determination. Reasonable
jurists could also debate whether Petitioner states a valid constitutional claim based on the state
court’s exclusion of the police officer’s testimony.
Accordingly, Petitioner’s motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Court
GRANTS a certificate of appealability on the issue of actual innocence to overcome the
untimely filing of the petition. The Court also CERTIFIES, pursuant to FED. R. APP. P. 24 (a),
that an appeal in this matter would be taken in good faith to the extent the appeal addresses the
gateway actual innocence issue. An appeal that does not address that issue is not certified as
taken in good faith, and Petitioner should, in that instance, follow the procedures of Rule 24 (a)
(5) to obtain in forma pauperis status.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ S. Thomas Anderson________
S. THOMAS ANDERSON
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Date: June 6, 2017.
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