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Hartley v. Whitten

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 20, 2019

HARVIE LAVERNE HARTLEY, Petitioner,
v.
RICK WHITTEN, Warden, Respondent.[1]

          ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Harvie Laverne Hartley is an Oklahoma state prisoner who has petitioned this Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Pet. (Doc. No. 1). Respondent has filed an Answer (Doc. No. 13), to which Petitioner did not reply. Having reviewed the parties’ submissions, the state-court record, and the applicable law, the Court denies relief.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 20, 2012, Petitioner was tried and convicted in the District Court of Roger Mills County of trafficking in illegal drugs, distributing a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, unlawful use of a police radio, and possession of drug paraphernalia. See Pet. at 1; State v. Hartley, No. CF-2011-19 (Roger Mills Cty. Dist. Ct.); State v. Hartley, No. CF-2011-39 (Roger Mills Cty. Dist. Ct.); State v. Hartley, No. CF-2011-40 (Roger Mills Cty. Dist. Ct.).[2] Petitioner is currently serving his sentences at James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, Oklahoma. See Pet. at 1.

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal of his convictions, which the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”) affirmed on May 22, 2014. See OCCA Summ. Op. (Doc. No. 13-1). On October 20, 2017, Petitioner filed an application for postconviction relief in the trial court asserting that “pursuant to the Oklahoma Post-Conviction Relief Act, ” he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing to present “newly discovered evidence”-namely, testimony from a previously unknown witness “tend[ing] to prove actual innocence.” Pet’r’s Postconviction Appl. (Doc. No. 13-2) at 5-6. Petitioner alleged that in a letter dated September 28, 2017, this witness admitted to having placed a “purple bag” (later found to contain . . . 20 oz. of drugs among other drug paraphernalia” and subsequently used by the State to convict Petitioner) “in a pickup [Petitioner] was working on.” Id. at 6, 9-10.

         The state district court denied relief on February 1, 2018, stating:

The state in its response convinces me that this “witness” was known to the defendant at [the] time of trial. The witness’s involvement was known to the state and they report that the information was given to the defendant. I find it extremely unlikely that this witness’s testimony could have any bearing on the outcome of this case. The letter was received by defendant four and a half years after the jury trial. Other independent evidence was presented in the jury trial by the state.

         Trial Ct. Postconviction Order (Doc. No. 13-3) at 2.

         Petitioner appealed this disposition to the OCCA, [3] which on July 18, 2018, affirmed the denial of relief, stating:

[T]he District Court stated its findings and conclusions that it is extremely unlikely that the alleged new evidence presented by Petitioner could have had any bearing on the outcome of this case. Petitioner doesn’t analyze the alleged new evidence in relation to all of the other evidence presented at Petitioner’s trial. Petitioner has thus not established that the evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact and has not established that the District Court abused its discretion.

See OCCA Postconviction Order (Doc. No. 13-5) at 3.

         Petitioner filed the instant habeas action on August 22, 2018, [4] contending that “[he] was denied his right to a fair trial by not allowing him to present exculpatory evidence which was unavailable at the trial.” Pet. at 5.

         ANALYSIS

         Petitioner appears to conflate the federal constitutional right to a “fair trial” with the statutory right to a “new trial” under the Oklahoma Post-Conviction Relief Act. While Petitioner claims he was denied a “fair trial, ” the crux of his argument is that he was wrongfully denied an evidentiary hearing-and, as a possible result, a new trial-on his ...


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