United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING
PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS , ; ADOPTING MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ; AND DISMISSING
PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Petitioner James Robert
Rowsey's Objections ,   to the Report and
Recommendation  of United States Magistrate Judge Robert
H. Walker, which recommended dismissal of Petitioner's 28
U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for habeas corpus relief. After
thoroughly reviewing Petitioner's Objections , ,
the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ,
the record as a whole, and relevant legal authority, the
Court concludes that Petitioner's Objections should be
overruled and that the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation  should be adopted as the finding of the
Court. Petitioner's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus should be dismissed.
State court proceedings
James Robert Rowsey (“Petitioner” or
“Rowsey”) is serving a life sentence in the
custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”) for a 1995 conviction for murder. On or
about January 28, 2010, while he was incarcerated at the
South Mississippi Correctional Institution
(“SMCI”), Rowsey poured hot water on the face and
head of a fellow inmate, severely burning him. On February
22, 2011, a state court grand jury in Greene County,
Mississippi, returned an Indictment charging Petitioner with
aggravated assault. See R. [21-1] at 18
17, 2011, an attorney was appointed to defend Rowsey in the
aggravated assault case. See Id. at 47. The same
day, Rowsey and his attorney signed a Waiver of Arraignment
and agreed to a trial setting of August 8, 2011. See
Id. at 48. Also on or about May 17, 2011, Rowsey began
sending letters to the Mississippi Bar complaining about his
attorney's performance with respect to the Waiver of
Arraignment he and his attorney had signed. See Id.
at 50-52, 53-53, 72-73. Rowsey's attorney moved to
withdraw on June 6, 2011, due to the proceedings initiated
against her with the Mississippi Bar and the resulting
“irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client
relationship.” Id. at 60. The state court
granted the motion to withdraw on June 22, 2011, and
appointed Rowsey new counsel. Id. at 88.
variety of reasons, Rowsey's trial was continued multiple
times. See, e.g., R. [12-1] at 89; R. [12-2] at 5,
137; R. [12-3] at 100, 120; R. [12-4] at 67, 76, 82; R.
[12-5] at 75, 107. Rowsey was ultimately tried by a jury in
February 2014 and convicted of aggravated assault.
See R. [12-6] at 57 (jury verdict). On or about
February 25, 2014, Rowsey was sentenced to serve ten years in
the custody of the MDOC, to run consecutively to the sentence
he was already serving. Id. at 81. Rowsey appealed.
See Id. at 117.
attorney from the Indigent Appeals Division of the Office of
the State Public Defender was appointed to represent Rowsey
for purposes of post-trial proceedings and the appeal.
See Id. at 140. On December 3, 2015, the Mississippi
Supreme Court affirmed Rowsey's conviction and sentence,
see R. [12-10] at 33-68; Rowsey v. State,
188 So.3d 486 (Miss. 2015), and his motion for rehearing was
denied, see R. [12-10] at 2, 13.
about March 31, 2016, Rowsey filed an Application to Proceed
in the Trial Court with a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief
in the Mississippi Supreme Court, see R. [12-11] at
2, stating the following issues for consideration: (1)
alleged procedural violations committed by the trial court,
including purported lack of initial appearance and failure to
have a timely arraignment; (2) purported abandonment of
Petitioner by his court-appointed attorney when Petitioner
attempted to bring up matters on his own and was told by the
judge to “have your lawyer do that”; (3) the
granting by the trial court of continuances purportedly in
violation of Rowsey's speedy trial rights under
Mississippi Code § 99-15-29; (4) alleged ineffective
assistance of trial counsel; and (5) Petitioner allegedly
receiving an improper sentence that should not be mandatory.
See Id. at 6-7. Rowsey also filed Motions for Full
Docket of his criminal proceeding and to Keep All Legal Work
and Materials in Rowsey's Personal Possession. See
Id. at 5-6. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied
Petitioner's Application and Motions on June 8, 2016,
finding that his “claims are either waived, barred by
the doctrine of res judicata, or fail to present a
substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal
right.” R. [15-2] at 1.
about August 18, 2016,  Rowsey filed in the Mississippi Supreme
Court another Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial
Court, again seeking post-conviction relief, see R.
[12-11] at 18-52, which the Mississippi Supreme Court denied
on October 12, 2016, see R. [15-3] at 1-2. The
claims Rowsey sought to raise included (1) whether he was
provided a meaningful direct appeal in the absence of a
review by the Mississippi Court of Appeals; (2) whether he
was denied pretrial due process and a speedy trial; and (3)
whether he was prejudiced because he was purportedly unable
to obtain his stored legal documents. R. [12-11] at 25-43.
Mississippi Supreme Court determined that Rowsey's claims
that he was denied due process, equal protection, and a
meaningful appeal without first allowing the Mississippi
Court of Appeals to review the case were barred as successive
and thus waived. See R. [15-3] at 1. Rowsey's
pretrial due process and speedy-trial violation claims were
“barred based on one or more of the following:
successive writ, waiver, and res judicata.”
Id. The Court found that, even if an exception
applied, “the claims lack any arguable basis to warrant
waiving those bars.” Id. at 2. As for the
third claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court held it was
“not one for post-conviction relief, ”
id., and denied Petitioner's Application and
issued a sanction warning, see id.
Section 2254 Petition
August 15, 2016, Rowsey filed the present Petition  for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in
this Court,  challenging his February 25, 2014, state
conviction and sentence for aggravated assault. See
Pet.  at 1.
advances the following four grounds for relief:
GROUND ONE: Procedural due process rights
were grossly violated by the trial court, including speedy
trial. - 16 May 2011: Questioned by Judge in open court
before appointing counsel, on 5/16/11 . . . . Transcripts
GROUND TWO: Grossly incomplete records and
transcripts - These were sent to Rowsey by Miss. Supreme
Court for Supplemental Brief - Records wrong/cover letter
only; transcripts begin 2/21/12.
GROUND THREE: Courts have picked and
choosed; twisted and demean; unfairly, Rowsey's
legitimate issues into whatever suits them to abuse Rowsey
and his submissions.
GROUND FOUR: The “victim” is
reported as having minor injuries, air-ways clear-no serious
condition. Suddenly “victim” is nearly dead!
Could expert testimony by felon prison doctor be false?
Id. at 5-10 (emphasis in original) [sic].
paragraph 13 of the Petition , Rowsey represented that all
grounds for relief raised in the Petition had been presented
to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Id. at 12.
Respondent Earnest Lee (“Respondent”) has filed
an Answer  in response to the Petition and states that
the issues presented in this Petition were reviewed by the
Mississippi Supreme Court and were found to have no merit.
See Ans.  at 5. According to Respondent, because
these issues were considered on the merits, habeas relief
should be denied as to these claims. See Id. (citing
28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d), (e)(1)). Respondent asks the
Court to dismiss the Petition with prejudice and to deny a
Certificate of Appealability. See Id. at 23.
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
14, 2019, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and
Recommendation , finding that federal habeas relief is
not warranted and recommending that the Petition be
dismissed. R. & R.  at 12. As for Ground One of the
Petition, the Magistrate Judge recognized that Rowsey's
primary complaint before this Court is that he was denied a
speedy trial. The Magistrate Judge reviewed and considered
the extensive timeline in Rowsey's criminal proceeding
and noted that the vast majority of the continuances were by
agreement of the parties. Id. at 7-8. The Magistrate
Judge determined that the state court's decision that
there was no violation of Rowsey's constitutional right
to a speedy trial was not contrary to clearly established
federal law, nor did it involve an unreasonable application
of clearly established federal law. Id. at 10.
Habeas relief was not warranted under the first ground.
the second ground, regarding Rowsey's complaints that he
did not have access to the records and transcripts needed to
prepare his appellate filings, the Magistrate Judge found
that the record plainly refuted Rowsey's assertion and
Rowsey had not shown he was deprived of a right secured him
by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
Id. at 10-11. In Ground Three, the Magistrate Judge
was “unable to ascertain what constitutional claim
Rowsey raise[d] . . . .” Id. at 11. The
Magistrate Judge noted that mere conclusory statements were
insufficient and that to the extent Rowsey argues his case
should have first been heard by the Mississippi Court of
Appeals, such a right would rest on state law rather than
federal law. Id. The Magistrate Judge found Ground
Three to be without merit.
the Petition's final ground, challenging the trial
evidence regarding the extent of the victim's injuries,
the Magistrate Judge noted that federal district courts do
not act as a “super” state supreme court and
concluded that the trial court's evidentiary rulings were
matters of state law that afforded no basis for federal
habeas relief. Id. at 12. As the Magistrate Judge
recognized, this Court can only grant habeas relief on a
claim related to sufficiency of the evidence at trial if no
rational trier of fact could have found Rowsey guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt. Id. (citing Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 324 (1979)). In ...