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Hurt v. Dowling

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 27, 2017

WILLIAM STEFVON HURT, Petitioner,
v.
JANET DOWLING, Warden, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus case. Petitioner is a state inmate and appears pro se. On February 7, 2017, Petitioner filed his petition (Doc. 4), along with a motion for stay and abeyance (Doc. 5). In response to the petition, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss petition as time barred (Doc. 10), along with a supporting brief (Doc. 11). Respondent also filed a response in opposition to Petitioner's motion for stay and abeyance (Doc. 12). Petitioner filed a response to the motion to dismiss (Doc. 13). For the reasons discussed below, Respondent's motion to dismiss shall be denied and Respondent shall file a response to the petition. Petitioner's motion for stay and abeyance shall be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The record reflects that, at the conclusion of a jury trial held in Tulsa County District Court, Case No. CF-2010-1963, Petitioner William Stefvon Hurt was convicted of First Degree Murder. See Doc. 11-1. On November 14, 2011, the trial judge sentenced Petitioner, in accordance with the jury's recommendation, to life imprisonment. Id.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA). In an unpublished summary opinion, filed May 17, 2013, in Case No. F-2011-1057, the OCCA affirmed the Judgments and Sentences of the trial court. See Doc. 11-1. Nothing in the record suggests that Petitioner sought certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.

         On May 24, 2013, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for suspended sentence (Doc. 11-2). That motion was denied by order filed June 18, 2013 (Doc. 11-3).

         On June 12, 2013, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief in the state district court (Doc. 11-4). By order filed August 6, 2013 (Doc. 11-5), the district court judge denied the requested relief. Petitioner did not file a post-conviction appeal.

         On January 24, 2014, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, using this Court's form. See Doc. 4 at 7. However, he filed the petition in Tulsa County District Court, the wrong court. The docket sheet for Tulsa County District Court, Case No. CF-2010-1963, shows that on January 24, 2014, a petition for writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum was filed of record. See www.oscn.net. However, the docket sheet shows no action taken on the petition and no record of inquiry made by Petitioner. Id.

         On January 4, 2017, Petitioner submitted for filing in this Court a motion for stay and abeyance (Doc. 1), requesting that his habeas action be stayed while he presented unexhausted claims to the state courts. Based on Petitioner's statements, the Clerk of Court opened this habeas corpus action. By Order filed January 5, 2017 (Doc. 2), the Court promptly denied Petitioner's motion for stay and abeyance, informed Petitioner that “this Court has no record of any case filed by Petitioner, ” and provided Petitioner the opportunity to file a habeas petition. Thereafter, on February 7, 2017, Petitioner filed the petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 4) presently before the Court. Petitioner states that he “submits his original writ of habeas corpus to the Court for filing, with only the original claims.” Id. at 5. In his petition, Petitioner claims that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of First Degree Murder; (2) the trial was infected with improper, irrelevant, and purely speculative expert opinion; (3) prosecutorial misconduct deprived Petitioner of a fair trial; and (4) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. See Id. at 8-25.[1] With the exception of the date of Petitioner's signature, the petition filed in this Court on February 7, 2017 (id.), is identical to the petition filed on January 24, 2014, in Tulsa County District Court, Case No. CF-2010-1963. See www.oscn.net. On February 7, 2017, Petitioner also filed a second motion for stay and abeyance (Doc. 5), requesting that this action be stayed while he returns to state court to exhaust state remedies for additional claims.

         In response to the petition, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss and supporting brief (Docs. 10, 11), arguing that the petition is time barred. In response to the motion to dismiss, Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to equitable tolling. See Doc. 13.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Timeliness of petition

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), enacted April 24, 1996, established a one-year limitations period for habeas corpus petitions as follows:

(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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