Panetti v. Thaler

Filing 31

ORDER GRANTING 27 Motion to Stay Case and Abate Procedings. FURTHER ORDERED that this case is hereby STAYED and ABATED until further notice... Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (td)

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P a n e t t i v. Thaler D o c . 31 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS A U S T IN DIVISION SC O T T LOUIS PANETTI, P e t it i o n e r , -v s R IC K THALER, R esp o n d en t. _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ C a se No. A-09-CA-774-SS ORDER B E IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and sp ecifically Petitioner Scott Louis Panetti ("Panetti")'s Motion to Stay Case and Abate Proceedings [#27] an d Petitioner's response in opposition [#30]. Having considered the motion, the response, the case file as a whole, and the applicable law, the Court enters the following opinion and orders. I. Pro cedu ral History Pan etti was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by a jury in 1995. The Texas C o u rt of Criminal Appeals (the "CCA") affirmed his conviction and sentence, Panetti v. State, Cause N o . 72,230 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997), and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review. P a netti v. Texas, 525 U.S. 848 (1998). Panetti then sought state post-conviction relief, which the CCA d en ied . Ex Parte Panetti, Writ No. 37,145-01 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998). In 1999, Panetti filed a federal habeas corpus petition. This Court denied relief, Panetti v. Jo h n so n , Cause No. A-99-CA-260-SS (W.D. Tex. 2001), and the Fifth Circuit affirmed that decision. P a n etti v. Cockrell, Cause No. 01-50347 (5th Cir. 2003). The United States Supreme Court denied P an etti's petition for writ of certiorari. Panetti v. Dretke, 540 U.S. 1052 (2003). In 2004, Panetti's counsel raised the issue of whether Panetti was incompetent to be executed u n d er Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). The state court held an evidentiary hearing on the m atter, and subsequently denied his Ford claim. Panetti filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on the sa m e issue in this Court and, after an evidentiary hearing, this Court likewise denied Panetti's claim. Pa netti v. Dretke, 401 F. Supp. 2d 702 (W.D. Tex. 2004). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision. Panetti v. Dretke, 448 F.3d 815 (5th Cir. 2006). However, the United States Supreme Court reversed an d remanded the case for further proceedings. Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). In February 2008, on remand, this Court held a second Ford hearing, and again denied Panetti's claim , finding he was competent to be executed. Panetti v. Quarterman, Cause No. A-04-CA-042-SS, 2 0 0 8 WL 2338498 (W.D. Tex. 2008). Panetti appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of A pp eals; however, before it issued an opinion, the Fifth Circuit stayed and abated the proceedings so that P an etti could return to the state court to raise an Edwards claim, based on the Supreme Court's thenrecen tly issued decision in Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164, 168 S.Ct. 2379 (June 19, 2008).1 See P a netti v. Quarterman, No. 08-70015 (5th Cir. Dec. 17, 2008), Ex. 1. Panetti filed his state habeas application asserting a claim under Edwards on June 16, 2009. In O cto ber 2009, the CCA dismissed the application as an abuse of the writ. Ex parte Panetti, WR-37, 14502 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). The instant petition for writ of habeas corpus followed. In his petition, filed In Edwards, the Supreme Court considered the issue of whether the federal Constitution requires a state trial judge to allow a mentally ill defendant, upon request, to proceed pro se at trial. 128 S.Ct. at 2383. The Court noted it had not addressed the "relation of the mental competence standard to the right of self-representation" in its previous cases. Id. Ultimately, the Court recognized a "m ental-illness-related limitation on the scope of the self-representation right." Id. at 2384. The Edwards court wrote: [T]he Constitution permits judges to take realistic account of the particular defendant's m enta l capacities by asking whether a defendant who seeks to conduct his own defense at trial is mentally competent to do so. That is to say the Constitution permits States to insist upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to stand trial under Dusky but who still suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not com pe tent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves. Id. at 2388. The Edwards court did not adopt a specific standard for when a defendant is mentally ill to the point he is not competent to represent himself at trial, but held "only that the lack of mental com petence can under some circumstances form a basis for denying the right to proceed pro se." Id. at 23 94 . 1 -2- o n October 22, 2009, Panetti asks this Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus and grant him relief from a conviction and sentence of death that he alleges is unconstitutional because the trial court allowed him to proceed pro se at trial, in violation of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Edwards. Am. P et. [#17] (citing Edwards, 554 U.S. 164). In April 2010, the Respondent filed a motion for summary jud gm ent on Panetti's Edwards claim. Panetti has asked and received permission from the Court to delay h is response to the motion for summary judgment until the Court decides his pending motion to stay and ab ate. Order [#29]. The Court turns to that motion now. II. M o tio n to Stay and Abate In his motion to stay and abate, filed on June 17, 2010, Panetti requests this Court stay and abate these proceedings so that he may return to the state court and request the CCA reconsider its October 20 09 decision dismissing his state habeas application as an abuse of the writ. Panetti's motion to stay an d abate is based on the fact that on May 5, 2010--after the CCA had dismissed his most recent state h ab eas petition for failure to meet the successive petition requirements--the CCA decided Chadwick v. S tate , 309 S.W.3d 558 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). See Pet.'s Mot. [#27] at 1. In Chadwick, the CCA re c o gn iz e d Edwards to be controlling on the issue of whether the trial court in that case had erred in d en yin g the defendant's request to represent himself. Id. at 560. The CCA held that under Edwards the State may "insist that a defendant who is competent to stand trial--but incompetent to conduct his or her ow n defense--be represented by counsel." Id. at 562. The CCA found the evidence in Chadwick ind icated the trial court had impliedly found the defendant's mental illness "was severe enough to render h im incompetent to proceed pro se," even though he had been deemed competent to stand trial. Id. T h e re fo re the CCA held, under Edwards, that the trial judge had not erred by refusing to allow the d efen d an t to represent himself. Id. In his current motion, Panetti asks the Court "to stay these proceedings and hold them in ab eyan ce" so that he may return to the state court to ask the CCA to reexamine its decision disposing of -3- his Edwards claim as a successive petition. Pet.'s Mot. Stay at 2. The parties agree this Court's decision o n whether to stay and abate the case is controlled by Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). In Rhines, the Supreme Court sanctioned a stay-and-abate procedure which maintains federal jurisdiction while allo w in g for state review of a claim. Id. However, the Rhines court found "stay and abeyance should be available only in limited circumstances"; specifically, where the district court determines there was "go o d cause for the petitioner's failure to exhaust his claims first in state court," the claims that are to b e presented to the state courts are not "plainly meritless," and the petitioner has not engaged in "abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay." Id. at 277-78. Furthermore, the petition should not be stayed ind efinitely; instead, "district courts should place reasonable time limits on a petitioner's trip to state cou rt and back." Id. at 278. In this case, the Respondent does not argue Panetti lacks good cause for his failure to raise his claim in the state courts or that he is engaging in abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay. The Court fin d s no basis to believe Panetti has filed this motion for the purpose of delay, or that he lacked good cau se for failing to raise Chadwick in his original state-court petition based on Edwards. Panetti's cou nsel represents he filed the present motion as soon as he became aware of the Chadwick decision, and th e Court has no reason to doubt that claim. Because the CCA decided Chadwick over six months after it dismissed Panetti's Edwards claim, Panetti clearly had good cause for his failure to raise Chadwick in his original state-court petition based on Edwards. The Respondent's sole argument against stay-and-abeyance is that the claim Panetti seeks to raise in the CCA is "patently meritless"--in other words, he claims it is clear Panetti does not have a valid Ed w ard s claim. Resp.'s Resp. at 3. The Respondent argues Panetti's case is distinguishable from both Ed w ard s and Chadwick because Panetti requested and received permission to proceed pro se from the trial court; thus, whether the trial court was constitutionally obligated to deny Panetti's request to waive -4- co u n sel is "an entirely separate question from the one decided in Edwards" and Edwards has no impact o n Panetti's case. Id. This Court disagrees that Panetti's Edwards claim is frivolous or "plainly meritless." Regardless of this Court's views on the merits of the claim, Panetti has presented at least an arguable basis for relief u n d er Edwards. Thus, the state court is entitled to the opportunity to review and decide the constitutional issu e presented in Panetti's petition before this Court does so. Allowing the state court the opportunity to review its decision to deny Panetti's petition as successive, in light of its recent Chadwick decision, w ill achieve the AEDPA's goal of promoting "comity, finality, and federalism" by giving the state court "the first opportunity to review [the] claim," and to "correct" any "constitutional violation in the first instance." Carey v. Saffold, 536 U.S. 214, 220 (2002). The Court finds the interests of comity and federalism dictate that the state court must have the first opportunity to decide Panetti's Edwards claim, an d therefore that this case is appropriate for a stay-and-abeyance under Rhines. III. C o n c lu s io n In accordance with the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that Petitioner Scott Louis Panetti's Motion to Stay Case and Abate P ro ceed in gs [#27] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this case is hereby STAYED and ABATED until fu rth er notice. Petitioner shall have THIRTY (30) DAYS from the date of this order to file any p lead in gs in the state court, and (if necessary) he shall return to this Court no more than THIRTY (30 ) DAYS after the conclusion of the state-court litigation, or face dismissal for failure to p ro s e c u te . SIGNED this the 30 th day of June 2010. _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ S A M SPARKS U N IT E D STATES DISTRICT JUDGE F:\SP AR KS \TE X T\cv09 \7 7 4 stay and abate order mkr.frm -5-

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