United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
B. BIGGERS, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on the pro se petition
of Vernora Watson for a writ of habeas corpus under
28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has moved to dismiss the
petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could
be granted. Ms. Watson has responded to the motion, and the
matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth
below, the State's motion to dismiss will be granted and
the instant petition will be dismissed for failure to state a
claim upon which relief could be granted.
Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
writ of habeas corpus, a challenge to the legal
authority under which a person may be detained, is ancient.
Duker, The English Origins of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: A
Peculiar Path to Fame, 53 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 983 (1978); Glass,
Historical Aspects of Habeas Corpus, 9 St. John's L.Rev.
55 (1934). It is “perhaps the most important writ known
to the constitutional law of England, ” Secretary
of State for Home Affairs v. O'Brien, A.C. 603, 609
(1923), and it is equally significant in the United States.
Article I, § 9, of the Constitution ensures that the
right of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be
suspended, except when, in the case of rebellion or invasion,
public safety may require it. Habeas Corpus, 20 Fed.
Prac. & Proc. Deskbook § 56. Its use by the federal
courts was authorized in Section14 of the Judiciary Act of
1789. Habeas corpus principles developed
over time in both English and American common law have since
The statutory provisions on habeas corpus appear as
sections 2241 to 2255 of the 1948 Judicial Code. The
recodification of that year set out important procedural
limitations and additional procedural changes were added in
1966. The scope of the writ, insofar as the statutory
language is concerned, remained essentially the same,
however, until 1996, when Congress enacted the Antiterrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act, placing severe restrictions
on the issuance of the writ for state prisoners and setting
out special, new habeas corpus procedures for
capital cases. The changes made by the 1996 legislation are
the end product of decades of debate about habeas
Id. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a federal court may
issue the writ when a person is held in violation of the
federal Constitution or laws, permitting a federal
court to order the discharge of any person held by a
state in violation of the supreme law of the land.
Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 311, 35 S.Ct. 582,
588, 59 L.Ed. 969 (1915).
and Procedural Posture
Watson is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of
Corrections and is currently housed at the Central
Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. Ms.
Watson was convicted of murder in the Circuit Court of Panola
County and sentenced on August 17, 2000, to serve a term of
life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of
Corrections (MDOC). See Exhibit A. On May 14, 2001,
the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed Ms. Watson's
conviction and sentence. Watson v. State, 816 So.
1029 (Miss. Ct. App. 2002) (Cause No. 2000-KA-01936). In the
instant petition, however, Ms. Watson has not challenged her
conviction and sentence for murder; rather, she challenges
the State's determination that she is not eligible for
Watson attached to her petition a grievance filed with the
Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) at the Mississippi
Department of Corrections in August 2015 and the First Step
Response to that grievance. ECF Doc. 1at 16-18. The First
Step Response, dated August 11, 2015, informed Ms. Watson
that she was not eligible for parole because homicide was a
crime of violence. ECF Doc. 1, p. 18. The First Step response
also added that Ms. Watson could “petition the court
for parole consideration after serving ten years of your
sentence.” Id. MDOC officials informed the
respondent that Ms. Watson did not complete the grievance
process by seeking review through the second step. As such,
she did not receive a certificate of completion to appeal the
MDOC's decision on the grievance to the circuit court.
See Exhibit F (Affidavit of LeTresia Stewart).
Further, in August 2016, Ms. Watson filed a second grievance
with ARP which MDOC officials returned to her, stating
“that she had a previously accepted ARP (CMCF-15-1466)
concerning the same issue.” Id.
Watson also attached to her petition a copy of a letter dated
October 20, 2015, acknowledging Watson's request to the
trial court for consideration of parole under House Bill 585.
ECF Doc. 1at 19. In addition, Watson attached an Order of the
Panola County Circuit Court filed March 23, 2017, denying her
petition for parole based on the trial court's
determination that Watson's crime, murder, is a violent
crime which is ineligible for parole under current state law.
ECF Doc. 1, pp. 20-22. The trial judge concluded that,
“[w]hen Watson might be released from custody is now an
executive decision to be made by the proper MDOC or any other
officials, and not a judicial decision to be made by this
court.” ECF Doc. 1, p. 22.
instant petition, Ms. Watson raises the following grounds for
Ground One: Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-3
language is contradictory in nature of its agenda.
Ground Two: That Panola County Circuit Court
Judge Jimmy McClure has ordered that release is now an MDOC
Ground Three: 14th USCA violation
of Equal Protection Clause - Ex Post Facto restrictions.
The court has construed Ms. Watson's petition to seek
parole eligibility on her murder conviction and sentence.
One and Two: ...