United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JDUGE.
Joe Sanders, II, a state inmate appearing pro se,
commenced this action on July 19, 2019, by filing a 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. # 1) and
submitting the requisite filing fee (Dkt. # 2). For the
reasons that follow, the Court dismisses the habeas petition,
without prejudice, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
purports to challenge the judgment and sentence entered
against him in the District Court of Tulsa County, No.
CF-06-2341. Dkt. # 1, at 1. In that case, a jury found
petitioner guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of
robbery with a dangerous weapon, and shooting with intent to
kill. Id. at 1-2. In accordance with the jury's
recommendations, the trial court imposed sentences of life
without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction,
20 years' imprisonment for each robbery conviction, and
10 years' imprisonment for the remaining conviction.
Id. at 1. In 2009, in No. F-2007-1103, the Oklahoma
Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) affirmed petitioner's
judgment and sentence on direct appeal. Id. at 2.
The state district court subsequently denied petitioner's
application for post-conviction relief. Id. at 3.
Petitioner filed his first 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for
writ of habeas corpus in 2010, and this court denied relief
on the merits. Sanders v. Miller, No.
10-CV-567-TCK-TLW, 2013 WL 2323138 (N.D. Okla. 2013)
(unpublished), certificate of appealability denied
by 555 Fed.Appx. 750 (10th Cir. 2014)
2017, petitioner filed an application for post-conviction
relief in state district court seeking testing of
“biological material” under Oklahoma's
Postconviction DNA Act, Okla. Stat. tit. 22, §§
1373-1373.7. Dkt. # 1, at 3. The state district court denied
the application without holding an evidentiary hearing, and
the OCCA affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief on May
20, 2019, in Case No. PC-2018-792. Id. at 3-5.
previously stated, petitioner filed the instant § 2254
habeas petition on July 19, 2019. Dkt. # 1, at 1. He
identifies only one ground for relief: the “court erred
in denying request for Post-Conviction DNA testing under
Title 22 O.S. 1373.” Id. at 5. In support,
Blood stains found in victim's pants pocket excluded the
petitioner and victim to a scientific certainty, hence
petitioner requests bloody cell phone and bloody clothes and
soda bottle recovered from the crime scene be tested.
Petitioner makes this request in the interest of justice as
well to prove innocence. Favorable results from this evidence
would corroborate the DNA found in the victim's pants
pocket causing exoneration or in the least reasonable doubt.
The DNA blood stains found in victim's pant pocket was
never presented in court before the jury, which is
Dkt. # 1, at 5. As relief for the state courts' allegedly
erroneous denial of his request for post-conviction DNA
testing, petitioner asks this Court to “set an
evidentiary hearing for DNA testing.” Id. at
district courts have a duty to “promptly examine”
habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. Rule 4, Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts. “Under Habeas Corpus Rule 4, if ‘it
plainly appears from the petition . . . that the petitioner
is not entitled to relief in the district court,' the
court must summarily dismiss the petition without ordering a
responsive pleading.” Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S.
644, 656 (2005); see also Boutwell v. Keating, 399
F.3d 1203, 1211 (10th Cir. 2005) (agreeing with federal
district court's interpretation that Rule 4
“require[s] dismissing a habeas petition that fails to
allege facts that state a constitutional violation”).
Here, the Court finds the instant petition must be summarily
dismissed because it is plainly apparent that the Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction over petitioner's sole claim
court jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by state
prisoners is governed, in nearly all cases, by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a). To invoke this Court's jurisdiction, a
habeas petitioner must allege facts demonstrating (1) that
the petitioner is “in custody” as to the
state-court judgment he or she seeks to challenge and (2)
that the petitioner's challenge to his or her custody
involves an alleged violation of either (a) the United States
Constitution, (b) federal laws, or (c) treaties of the United
States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); see Kirby v.
Janecka, 379 Fed.Appx. 781, 782-83 (10th Cir. 2010)
(unpublished) (explaining that § 2254(a)
“authorizes federal courts to review habeas petitions
only if the petitioner's claims satisfy both a status and
a substance requirement. The status requirement mandates that
the petitioner raise his claims while he is in custody, and
the substance requirement mandates that those claims assert a
right to release from that custody on federal law
grounds.”); McCormick v. Kline, 572 F.3d 841,
848 (10th Cir. 2009) (“Section 2254's in-custody
requirement is jurisdictional.”).
obvious from the petition that petitioner satisfies the
status requirement as he is serving a sentence of life
without the possibility of parole under the state-court
judgment he identifies in the petition. Dkt. # 1, at 1. But
even assuming the truth of the allegations in the petition,
petitioner fails to satisfy the substantive requirement.
Petitioner claims the state courts erroneously denied his
request for post-conviction DNA testing, a request he made
pursuant to Oklahoma's Postconviction DNA Act.
Id. at 5. In support of this claim, petitioner
alleges that certain evidentiary items recovered from the
crime scene either were not previously tested for DNA or were
tested and the results were not presented at trial.
Id. He further alleges at least some of the evidence
“is exculpatory.” Id.
three reasons, the Court does not construe petitioner's
sole claim as presenting a federal question satisfying §
2254(a)'s substantive requirement. First, to the extent
petitioner suggests that the state courts misapplied state
law in denying his request for post-conviction DNA testing,
he alleges only an error of state law. And an error of state
law does not suffice to invoke federal habeas jurisdiction.
See Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010)
(“[I]t is only noncompliance with federal law
that renders a State's criminal judgment susceptible to
collateral attack in the federal courts.” (emphasis in
original)); Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780
(1990) (reiterating that “federal habeas corpus relief
does not lie for errors of state law”). Second, to the
extent petitioner asserts that the state courts violated his
right to substantive due process by denying his request for
post-conviction DNA testing, he fails to state a federal
claim. See Dist. Atty's Office for the Third Judicial
Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52, 72-73 (2009) (refusing
“to expand the concept of substantive due
process” to encompass “a freestanding right to
access DNA evidence for testing” in state
post-conviction proceedings). Third, while the Supreme Court
in Osborne “left slim room” for a habeas
petitioner to challenge state law regarding post-conviction
DNA testing on procedural due process grounds, see
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 524 (2011),
petitioner's allegations do not suggest, much less
support, that he is attempting to challenge Oklahoma's
Postconviction DNA Act as unconstitutional. Rather,
petitioner's claim is read most reasonably as attempting
to challenge only the state courts' decision that he is
not entitled to post-conviction DNA testing under Oklahoma
law. See Skinner, 562 U.S. at 532 (explaining that
“a state-court decision is not reviewable by lower
federal courts, but a statute or rule governing the decision
may be challenged in a federal action, ” and finding
state prisoner's challenge to denial of request for
post-conviction DNA testing could proceed because prisoner
alleged state law governing post-conviction DNA testing was