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Williams v. State

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

February 18, 2014



DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

Petitioner Reuben[1] Williams, Mississippi prisoner no. 13546, has filed a pro se federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his State court conviction for aggravated domestic violence. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the State court record, and the law applicable to Williams' claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied, for the reasons that follow.

Background Facts and Procedural History

In May of 2010, Reuben Williams was indicted in the Circuit Court of Leflore County, Mississippi, on one count of rape, one count of felon in possession of a firearm, one count of aggravated domestic assault, and one count of kidnapping. The charges stemmed from an April 15, 2009, incident in which Williams attacked the mother of his two children. After plea negotiations, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated domestic violence in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining charges. By order filed on February 4, 2011, he was sentenced to serve twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), with fifteen years to serve and five years of post-release supervision. ( See Answer, Ex. A).

By statute, there is no direct appeal from a guilty plea. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-35-101. Williams did, however, file a motion for post-conviction relief in the Leflore County Circuit Court on September 20, 2011, and the circuit court denied the motion by order filed on April 13, 2012. ( See Answer, Ex. B). Williams appealed the denial of his post-conviction motion to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which assigned the case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. On July 30, 2013, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. ( See Answer, Ex. C); see also Williams v. State, 119 So.3d 404 (Miss. Ct. App. 2013), reh'g denied, November 5, 2013 (Case No. 2012-CP-00411-COA). Williams did not file a petition for writ of certiorari to the Mississippi Supreme Court. ( See Answer, Ex. D).

On or about October 30, 2013, Williams filed the instant federal habeas petition raising the following grounds for relief, as stated by Williams:

Ground One: Dismissed deadly weapon from charge and indictment.
Ground Two: Reuben Williams constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated.
Ground Three: Ineffective assistance of counsel.
Ground Four: Excessive sentencing cruel and unusual punishment.

In their answer, Respondents claim that Williams has failed to exhaust his State court remedies as to the claims in the instant petition, and as such, his claims are not properly before the Court. Williams has failed to submit a reply.

Legal Standard

Generally, a petitioner must exhaust his available state court remedies as a prerequisite to seeking federal habeas relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) and (c); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 840 (1999). The exhaustion requirement is satisfied when the habeas claim has been presented to the highest state court in a procedurally proper manner. Nobles v. Johnson, 127 F.3d 409, 420 (5th Cir. 1997). If a petitioner fails to exhaust his claims prior to seeking federal habeas relief, his federal habeas petition must ordinarily be dismissed. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991); see also Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 157, 178-79 (2001) ("The exhaustion requirement of § 2254(b) ensures that the state courts have the opportunity fully to consider federal-law challenges to a state custodial judgment before the lower federal courts may entertain a collateral attack upon that judgment.").

Where a petitioner files a petition containing some exhausted claims and some unexhausted claims, a federal district court must typically dismiss the "mixed petition" in its entirety. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 510 (1982). However, a petitioner may, in limited circumstances, file a protective federal habeas petition and request that the habeas court stay his action and hold the petition in abeyance while he exhausts his claims in state court. See Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 416-17 (2005). Such a stay is only appropriate, however, if the petitioner shows (1) good cause for his failure to exhaust, (2) his unexhausted claims are not ...

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