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Brown v. Commissioner of Mississippi Department of Corrections

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

August 23, 2019

PATRICIA ANN BROWN PETITIONER
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL RESPONDENTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the petition of Patricia Ann Brown (Brown) for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has responded with a motion to dismiss. The court has considered the motion and response, as well as the relevant case law and evidence. The court is now prepared to rule.

         Facts and Procedural Posture

          Petitioner Patricia Ann Brown (Brown) is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) and is currently housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. On April 9, 2008, Brown was convicted of possession of cocaine, in an amount greater than .10 gram, but less than 2 grams, in the Circuit Court of Pontotoc County, Mississippi. On April 10, 2008, the circuit court sentenced Brown to life imprisonment as a habitual offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-19-83, without eligibility for parole or probation, to be served in the custody of the MDOC. It should be noted that Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-19-83 was amended in 2014.

         Brown filed petitions for post-conviction relief in state court on the following dates: November 1, 2013; October 8, 2015; and January 22, 2016. On November 6, 2017, Brown made her present claim in the Mississippi Supreme Court by filing an Application to Proceed in Trial Court for Post-Conviction Relief. See Application to Proceed in Trial Court for Post-Conviction Relief. The application alleges that the pre-2014 Miss. Code Ann. Sec. 99-19-83 is unconstitutionally vague, as determined by Johnson v. United States, 135 S.CT. 2551 (2015). Upon the United States Supreme Court's handing down the decision in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.CT. 1204 (2018), Brown augmented her application in state court by filing a letter, dated April 2018, with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

         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 to 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 Section 14 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).

         Discussion

         Brown makes four arguments to support her claim that her petition is timely. Her first argument states that because of applicable tolling periods, the one-year statute of limitations, measured from the date of the decision in Johnson v. United States, has not expired. Second, she argues, in the alternative, that the one-year statute of limitations begins to run from the date of the decision in Sessions v. Dimaya. Brown's third argument is that under the rationale of Johnson and Dimaya, the pre-2014 Miss. Code Ann. § 19-19-83, under which Brown was sentenced, is unconstitutionally vague. Her final argument is that as applied to the facts of this case, and on its face, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) of the AEDPA is unconstitutional.

         The Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections argues Brown is not subject to a habeas claim for two reasons. First, the United States Supreme Court's holding in Johnson is tailored only to the Armed Career Criminal Act's (ACCA) residual clause, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), and thus not applicable to Brown. Second, Brown is time-barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) (ADEDPA).

         However, the ultimate claim made by Brown to overcome her timeliness issue is that armed robbery is not a crime of violence, thus not a predicate offense for pre-2014 Miss. Code Ann. § 19-19-83. To challenge the armed robbery offense that she was found guilty of in 1988, Brown must overcome at least one of the following exceptions established in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) and (2):

(d)(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The ...

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