Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Watson v. Mdoc

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

August 13, 2018

VERNORA WATSON PETITIONER
v.
MDOC, ET AL. RESPONDENTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NEAL B. BIGGERS, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 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.

         Habeas Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         The 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 been codified:

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 corpus.

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).

         Facts and Procedural Posture

         Vernora 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.[1] 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 parole.[2]

         Ms. 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.[3] 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.

         Ms. 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.

         Grounds for Relief

         In the instant petition, Ms. Watson raises the following grounds for relief:

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 decision.
Ground Three: 14th USCA violation of Equal Protection Clause - Ex Post Facto restrictions.

         Doc. 1. The court has construed Ms. Watson's petition to seek parole eligibility on her murder conviction and sentence.

         Grounds One and Two: ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.