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Jackson v. Bryant

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

January 5, 2018

JASON BRYANT, Warden, Respondent.



         Petitioner, Charles Keith Jackson, a state court prisoner appearing pro se, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1). However, because Petitioner is challenging the revocation of a suspended sentence, the Court finds that the proper avenue for relief is 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The Court therefore construes the petition as a request for relief under § 2241 and applies de novo review to the two claims raised therein. See Leatherwood v. Allbaugh, 861 F.3d 1034, 1041-43 (10th Cir. 2017) (acknowledging circuit precedent that challenges to the revocation of a suspended sentence are reviewed de novo under § 2241).

         Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner challenges the revocation of the suspended sentence he received in Oklahoma County District Court No. CF-1999-1736. On March 3, 1999, Petitioner killed two people while driving under the influence of alcohol, and on February 23, 2000, he pled guilty to two counts of first degree manslaughter. Petitioner received a concurrent twenty-year sentence with ten years suspended. Pursuant to the probation guidelines, Petitioner was advised that his suspended sentence could be revoked in full if he violated any city, state or federal law (O.R. 1, 17-20, 23-33). In Carter County District Court No. CF-2014-177, Petitioner was charged with his third first degree manslaughter offense, and on June 9, 2014, the State filed an application to revoke Petitioner's suspended sentence (O.R. 51).

         On March 17, 2015, a hearing on the application was held. Petitioner pled guilty to the application and the parties presented argument regarding sentencing. The State asserted that the sentence should be revoked in full. The prosecutor argued that after killing two people, Petitioner “was given a chance to have a normal life, ” but having caused a third death under the same circumstances, revoking the entire ten-year suspended sentence was “the only appropriate thing to do.” In support of his argument, the prosecutor offered photographs documenting Petitioner's new crime. He also presented the results of a blood test which showed that Petitioner was driving under the influence of drugs.[1] Referring to the transcript of Petitioner's trial on the new charge, which the trial court had the opportunity to read, the prosecutor remarked how Petitioner attempted to flee the scene and showed no remorse for what he did (Tr. 3/17/15, 3-4).

         Defense counsel argued that although the offenses were the same, the circumstances were “significantly different.” In the prior case, Petitioner was driving under the influence of alcohol, but in the new case, he was driving under the influence of a prescribed medication. Defense counsel also noted that there was no evidence showing the amount of medication in his system at the time of the accident (Tr. 3/17/15, 5). Nevertheless, defense counsel acknowledged the severity of situation: “[Petitioner] very well may have three people's blood on his hands” (id. at 6). Consequently, defense counsel's only request to the trial court was for a concurrent sentence should the trial court grant the State's application to revoke (id. at 5-6). Defense counsel argued that the jury's assessment of a twenty-five year sentence on the new charge, when the jurors knew about Petitioner's prior manslaughter convictions and could have returned a life sentence, showed that there were mitigating circumstances warranting a concurrent sentence:

[Petitioner] is a member of my community. I'm from Ardmore. A jury sat, impaneled, heard the evidence. They were aware that these other two persons had previously been killed by [Petitioner] in an accident and they gave him 25 years. They had the option of giving him life.
I understand this is heinous and so does [Petitioner], but this situation, Your Honor, warranted a trial. And I believe the evidence that came out at trial was mitigating to the fact that the jury declined to give him life in prison. He may very well have three people's blood on his hands. I can't speak to that or not. But I will tell the Court that, having heard the full breadth of the evidence, the jury still chose to give him 25 and not life.

Id. Defense counsel also noted that Petitioner, who was fifty-seven years old at the time of the revocation hearing, was not a young man (O.R. 70; Tr. 3/17/15, 7).[2]

         Before announcing its sentencing decision, the trial court gave Petitioner an opportunity to speak. Petitioner acknowledged the severity of his crimes and he took full responsibility for his actions (Tr. 3/17/15, 7-8). Consistent with his counsel's argument, he asked only for a concurrent sentence:

All I'm asking is, you know, I've been sentenced for 25 years at 85 percent, you know, and if I do, am blessed enough to walk out, you know, I'd hate to -- I just don't want to have that ten years being something else I have to do, Your Honor. That's all I've got to say.

(id. at 8). The trial court then revoked Petitioner's suspended sentence in full and ordered it to run consecutive to his twenty-five year sentence (id.). In No. RE-2015-377, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (hereinafter “OCCA”) affirmed the revocation. A copy of this unpublished opinion is attached to the response (Doc. 15 at Exhibit 5).

         Petitioner presents two grounds for relief, both of which were presented to the OCCA in his appeal of the trial court's revocation order. See Montez v. McKinna, 208 F.3d 862, 866 (10th Cir. 2000) (“A habeas petitioner is generally required to exhaust state remedies whether his action is brought under § 2241 or § 2254). Respondent has responded to the petition (Doc. 15). No. reply has been filed. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief.

         Ground ...

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