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Sanders v. King

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

May 7, 2018




         Bobby Sanders filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus relief on December 7, 2017. After reviewing the record and all the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that the petition be dismissed as untimely pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

         More than 15 years ago, Sanders entered a guilty plea to armed robbery in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Mississippi. In an order stamped “filed” on March 13, 2002, he was sentenced to serve 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 5 years suspended and 5 years on post-release supervision. On August 1, 2014, Sanders filed a motion for post-conviction relief in the Madison County Circuit Court. The circuit court dismissed the motion as untimely, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on July 28, 2015. Sanders v. State, 179 So.3d 1207 (Miss. Ct. App. 2015).[1]

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) imposes a one-year statute of limitations on state prisoners filing a federal habeas petition. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), AEDPA provides that the statute of limitations shall run from the latest of:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
(d)(1)(2) The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) and (2). Thus, unless the narrow exceptions of § 2244(d)(1)(B)-(D) apply, a federal habeas petition must be filed within one year of the final judgment of the defendant's conviction, subject to tolling for the period when a properly filed motion for post-conviction relief is pending in state court. See Madden v. Thaler, 521 Fed.Appx. 316 (5th Cir. 2013). AEDPA's statute of limitations period may also be equitably tolled if a petitioner shows “(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstances stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Scott v. Johnson, 227 F.3d 260, 263 (5th Cir. 2000) (equitable tolling may apply to extend the one-year statute of limitations period, but only in rare and exceptional circumstances).

         Mississippi law prohibits prisoners who plead guilty from directly appealing to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Notwithstanding the statutory prohibition, the Mississippi Supreme Court has historically carved out an exception permitting appeals from a guilty plea within 30 days for challenges to the legality of the sentence. See Sanders v. Cabana, 2:04CV273 P-A, 2005 WL 1240784 (N.D. Miss. May 19, 2005). Miss. Code Ann. § 99-35-101 (Supp. 2009)[2] has now been amended to expressly prohibit appeals when the defendant enters a plea of guilty. As a result, state courts no longer apply the 30-day exception to guilty pleas entered after July 1, 2008, the effective date of the amendment. See Seal v. State, 38 So.3d 635, 638 (Miss. Ct. App. 2010); Burroughs v. State, 9 So.3d 368, 374 (Miss. 2009) (noting that guilty pleas entered prior to the 2008 amendment should be analyzed in accordance with the court's interpretation of this section as it existed).

         Sanders entered his guilty plea before the effective date of the amendment. As such, he is credited with the 30-day period for direct appeal granted to petitioners who pled guilty prior to July 1, 2008. Roberts v. Cockrell, 319 F.3d at 690, 693, n.14 (5th Cir. 2003). His conviction therefore became final on April 12, 2002, 30 days after the sentencing order was filed. To toll the statute of limitations, he was required to file a motion for post-conviction collateral relief in state court on or before April 14, 2003.[3]Because he did not file his motion for post-conviction relief prior to that date, AEDPA's one-year statute of limitations ran uninterrupted. See Villegas v. Johnson, 184 F.3d 467, 472 (5th Cir. 1999) (expired limitations period cannot be revived by filing a state habeas petition). Absent statutory or equitable tolling, his federal habeas petition filed on December 7, 2017, over 14 years after the statute of limitations expired, is untimely.

         Sanders does not deny that his petition is untimely, but requests that his petition be considered on the merits because he is actually innocent. He alleges that his claims were not previously discoverable because he did not have access to “missing files and evidence, ” and because his counsel “was working in concert with the state attorney and totally destroyed the adversarial process of the criminal justice system . . . .” He also cites his incarceration and the limitation it placed on his ability to investigate and research newly discovered evidence.[4]

         As a threshold matter, Sanders does not submit, or otherwise identify in this court the newly discovered evidence upon which he relies. However, the evidence and his actual innocence claims were considered and ...

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