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Weaver v. Bear

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 28, 2017

DARRELL WEAVER, Petitioner,
v.
CARL BEAR, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER

          DAVID L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Charles Goodwin, Doc. 8, entered November 30, 2016, and Petitioner's Objection to Report and Recommendation, Doc. 11, filed January 19, 2017. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 be dismissed as untimely.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the Court has reviewed de novo those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which Petitioner has objected. Because the Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge that the Petition is untimely, the Petition is DENIED.

         Petitioner Darrell Weaver was convicted on two counts of first-degree rape in the District Court of Custer County, Oklahoma, on March 23, 2003, and sentenced to two consecutive fifty-year terms of imprisonment. Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence, which was then affirmed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”)

         on March 29, 2004. Mr. Weaver did not seek a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court.

         Mr. Weaver moved this Court for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on September 7, 2016. Proceeding pro se, Mr. Weaver offered five grounds for habeas relief: (1) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel, (3) abuse of discretion by the trial court by excluding certain defense witnesses, (4) insufficient evidence to support a conviction, and (5) newly discovered evidence proving his innocence.

         After acknowledging that a district court may dismiss a habeas petition when its untimeliness is clear from the face of the petition, see Kilgore v. Attorney Gen. of Colorado, 519 F.3d 1084, 1085 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases), the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal and found that neither statutory nor equitable tolling allowed Mr. Weaver to overcome this untimeliness.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) provides a one-year limitations period for habeas corpus petitions filed by state prisoners. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Section 2244(d)(1) provides four separate potential dates from which to begin counting. While two are arguably implicated here, neither entitle Mr. Weaver to relief.

         The first is found in § 2244(d)(1)(D)-“the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” The problem, as the Magistrate Judge pointed out, is that Mr. Weaver does not allege that he has evidence which was discovered within a year prior of filing for habeas relief. He simply alleges that he “has newly discovered evidence of victim's recantation that [P]etitioner is in fact actually/factually innocent of any crime charged against [P]etitioner . . . .” Doc. 1, at 6. Because Mr. Weaver failed to plead any additional facts that would allow the Magistrate Judge to construe Mr. Weaver's Petition under § 2244(d)(1)(D), the Magistrate Judge was required to consider it under § 2244(d)(1)(A). That provision grants a state prisoner one year to move for habeas relief starting on the “date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).

         The Magistrate determined that Mr. Weaver's judgment became final on June 28, 2004, when the ninety-day period for filing a certiorari petitioner with the United States Supreme Court expired. See Harris v. Dinwiddie, 642 F.3d 902, 906 n.6 (10th Cir. 2011). Mr. Weaver's one-year limitations period began to run the next day, on June 29, 2004, so he had up to and including June 29, 2005 to move for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Mr. Weaver's Petition filed on September 7, 2016, was therefore more than eleven years untimely.

         The Magistrate Judge correctly noted that Mr. Weaver would be entitled to relief if his limitations period had been either statutorily or equitably tolled. While Mr. Weaver does not take issue with the Magistrate's determinations that his limitations period began running on June 29, 2004, and that this period was never statutorily tolled, Mr. Weaver does maintain his actual innocence. Recognizing that Mr. Weaver proceeds pro se, the Court construes his objection as an argument that he is entitled to equitable tolling on the basis of his actual innocence.

         “[T]o receive equitable tolling, a petitioner must generally show that ‘he has been pursuing his rights diligently' and that ‘some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way' that prevented timely filing.” Craig v. McCollum, 590 Fed.Appx. 723, 725 (10th Cir. 2014) (citing Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 336 (2007)). This remedy is rare, and a petitioner must therefore show specific facts to support his claim of extraordinary circumstances and due diligence. Id.

         Though Mr. Weaver does not address how he has been diligent in bringing new evidence of his innocence to the Court's attention, “a prisoner seeking equitable tolling on actual innocence grounds need not demonstrate a diligent pursuit.” Id. (citing Lopez v. Trani, 628 F.3d 1228, 1230 - 1231 (10th Cir. 2010). That said, equitable tolling still requires extraordinary circumstances. Id. Those circumstances are specific: a petitioner must show that “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence.” McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1935 (2013). Further, “[u]nexplained delay in presenting new evidence bears on the determination whether the petitioner has made the requisite showing.” Id. And the petitioner must make an argument that he is factually innocent, not just legally innocent. Id.

         Mr. Weaver believes he has made this showing, but the Court is not persuaded. His sole piece of evidence supporting any argument of factual innocence is a letter from a friend (whom Mr. Weaver fails to identify) that alleges that Mr. Weaver's rape victim (his stepdaughter) tried to tell authorities that Mr. Weaver was innocent. Doc. 11, Ex. 3, at 7. It is unclear when Mr. Weaver's stepdaughter allegedly attempted to report his innocence. The letter muses that police might not have accepted her story since “too much time had passed [and] she should have told them the truth to begin with.” Id. Equally unclear is when Mr. Weaver received this letter. This would seem to be ...


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