Martin v. Clarke
OPINION and ORDER denying 31 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Judge James P. Jones on 7/15/2021. (Opinion and Order mailed to Pro Se Party via US Mail)(slt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
MICHAEL L. MARTIN,
HAROLD CLARKE, DIRECTOR,
Case No. 7:19CV00854
OPINION AND ORDER
By: James P. Jones
United States District Judge
Michael L. Martin, Pro Se Petitioner; Robert H. Anderson, III, Assistant
Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Richmond, Virginia, for
This action, filed as a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, is before me on Petitioner Michael L. Martin’s motion seeking
reconsideration of my Opinion and Final Order denying relief. Because the motion
was filed within 28 days of that Final Order, I will consider it under Rule 59(e) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After review of the record, I conclude that the
motion must be denied.
In his pro se § 2254 petition, Martin challenged his confinement pursuant to
a 2017 judgment entered by the Circuit Court for Pittsylvania County. Several
jurisdictions charged Martin with crimes, based largely on information provided to
police by Rynesha Greene about thefts Martin had committed and on evidence seized
on July 2, 2015, as a result of a search of the residence Martin and Greene shared.
Ultimately, in the Pittsylvania County court, Martin entered an Alford plea of guilty
to two counts of grand larceny.1 His appeals and state court habeas proceedings
Martin filed his federal habeas petition on December 11, 2019, alleging claims
of ineffective assistance of counsel related to his belief that evidence from the search
was illegally obtained. By Opinion and Order entered September 1, 2020, I granted
the Motion to Dismiss, finding the petition to be untimely filed under 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1), with insufficient evidence to support statutory or equitable tolling.
Martin v. Clarke, No. 7:19CV00854, 2020 WL 5201219 (W.D. Va. Sept. 1, 2020).
“Rule 59(e) allows a litigant to file a motion to alter or amend a judgment”
immediately after its issuance. Banister v. Davis, 140 S. Ct. 1698, 1703 (2020).2
Because a motion under Rule 59(e) provides the district court “the chance to rectify
its own mistakes in the period immediately following its decision,” courts use it
“only to reconsider matters properly encompassed in a decision on the merits” and
not to “address new arguments or evidence that the moving party could have raised
North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 38 (1970) (“In view of the strong factual
basis for the plea demonstrated by the State and Alford’s clearly expressed desire to enter
it despite his professed belief in his innocence, we hold that the trial judge did not commit
constitutional error in accepting it.”).
I have omitted internal quotation marks, citations, and alterations here and
throughout this Opinion and Order, unless otherwise noted.
before the decision issued.” Id. A Rule 59(e) motion, unlike a Rule 60(b) motion,
should not be considered as a second or successive habeas application and is more
properly considered part of the petitioner’s initial habeas effort. Id. at 1711. Only
in certain limited circumstances, may the court grant a Rule 59(e) motion: “(1) to
accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new
evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent
manifest injustice.” Zinkand v. Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 637 (4th Cir. 2007).
Martin has not presented any argument for reconsideration of my findings that
his petition was not timely filed, that he is not entitled to statutory tolling of the
federal filing period under § 2244(d)(1), or that he is not entitled to equitable tolling
based on limited access to legal materials. He also fails to point to any change in
applicable law or any particular error so as to warrant relief under Rule 59(e).
Rather, Martin challenges only my finding that he has not made an adequate
showing of his actual innocence as a basis for equitable tolling.
In rare circumstances, a habeas litigant can avoid the time bar
and have his federal claims considered on the merits if he can show that
failure to consider his habeas claims will result in a miscarriage of
justice because he is actually innocent. McQuiggin v. Perkins, 569 U.S.
383, 393–94 (2013). “The miscarriage of justice exception [to the
federal statute of limitations for filing a habeas petition] applies to a
severely confined category: cases in which new evidence shows ‘it is
more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted [the
petitioner].’” Id. at 394–95 (quoting Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 329
Martin, 2020 WL 5201219, at *7. I expressly found that Martin had “fail[ed] to
point to any new evidence supporting any colorable claim that he is actually innocent
of the offenses for which he stands convicted,” and that the record offered no support
for such a finding. Id. Furthermore, I noted that even if Martin had been able to
circumvent the time bar of § 2244(d)(1), I found that he was not entitled to relief on
his underlying habeas claims for the reasons stated by the Supreme Court of Virginia
in denying his state habeas petition. Id. at n.9 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)).
Martin’s lengthy motion for reconsideration largely reiterates allegations from
his petition that his state court attorneys should have challenged the search warrant
and its execution for various reasons to seek suppression of the evidence. Martin
also offers, for the first time, documentation that purportedly shows how Greene
stole property and personal identification information from him and used it to buy
food stamps and attempted to open a bank account in his name after he was
incarcerated. Martin contends that this evidence of Greene’s initiative to commit
theft and fraud on her own undercuts the credibility of her claims to police that
Martin forced her to commit crimes with him, thereby improving his chance to
succeed in suppressing the evidence against him. With all the evidence from the
search suppressed, Martin asserts, he would not have been convicted on any count.
Martin fails to show, however, that any of this evidence about Greene’s
supposed fraud using his personal information was unknown or unavailable to him
when he decided to plead no contest to the Pittsylvania criminal charges. Thus, I do
not find it appropriate to invoke the McQuiggin/Schlup actual innocence exception
to excuse Martin’s untimely filing of his federal habeas petition.
Moreover, Martin misunderstands the nature of the exception he seeks to
employ. Even if he could meet the elements of actual innocence under Schlup in
some manner, such a showing of actual innocence merely opens a gateway through
which I may address his untimely filed federal habeas claims on the merits.
McQuiggin, 569 U.S. at 392 (“[A] credible showing of actual innocence may allow
a prisoner to pursue his constitutional claims (here, ineffective assistance of counsel)
on the merits notwithstanding the existence of a procedural bar to relief.”). As stated,
I have already ruled that Martin’s habeas claims are without merit under §
2254(d)(1), as the Supreme Court of Virginia found. Martin, 2020 WL 5406438, at
For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, it is ORDERED that the
motion under Rule 59(e), ECF No. 31, is DENIED.
ENTER: July 15, 2021
/s/ James P. Jones
United States District Judge
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