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Figgs v. State

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 6, 2017

ROBERT CHRISTOPHER FIGGS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.

         The matter came before the court on respondent's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (DE 11) and motion to dismiss (DE 15), which as discussed further below, the court construes as a motion for summary judgment. The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants respondent's second motion for summary judgment and denies as moot respondent's remaining motion for summary judgment.

         STATEMENT OF CASE

         On February 26, 2013, petitioner was convicted, following a jury trial in the Beaufort County Superior Court, of statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child. See State v. Figgs, No. COA14-294, 2014 WL 3510980, at *1 ( N.C. App. July, 15, 2014). The superior court sentenced petitioner to consecutive terms of 317-390 and 21-26 months imprisonment for his respective convictions. Id. On December 12, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a writ of certiorari to allow petitioner to file a belated appeal. Id. Then, on July 15, 2014, the court of appeals found no error in petitioner's conviction or sentence. Id.

         On July 8, 2015, petitioner filed a pro se motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”) in the Beaufort County Superior Court. (Resp't's Mem. Ex. 5.) The superior court denied petitioner's MAR on September 4, 2015. (Id. Ex. 6). On November 6, 2015, petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of certiorari in the court of appeals, which was denied on November 23, 2015. (Id. Exs. 7, 9.)

         On January 25, 2016, [1] petitioner filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that there was a fatal variance between the indictment, jury instructions, and evidence introduced at trial as to the victim's age and the date of the alleged offense. Petitioner also alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for the following reasons: (1) failing to file a motion to suppress the evidence of petitioner's confession; (2) failing to do any pretrial discovery or adversarial testing which allowed an inaccurate prior record level determination which forced petitioner to go to trial; (3) failing to file a motion to dismiss at the close of all of the evidence; and (4) failing to file a timely notice of appeal.

         On July 27, 2016, respondent filed both a motion for summary judgment, arguing that petitioner is not entitled to relief on the merits of his claims and a motion to dismiss on the grounds that petitioner's habeas petition was filed outside of the statute of limitations, and therefore is time-barred. The motions were fully briefed. Petitioner responded to the motions. As part of his response, petitioner filed an appendix consisting of the following exhibits: correspondence with his appellate attorney; affidavit of Michael Stocks (“Stocks”); affidavit of Lesean Moore (“Moore”), Beaufort County Sheriff's Office's Statement from petitioner; Beaufort County February 25, 2010, probation violation report; Georgia Department of Correction (“DOC”) certificate of discharge; Georgia DOC sentence computation report; petitioner's statement to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office; petitioner's personal affidavits; the victim's statement to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office: Detective Jamie Cahoon's investigator's notes; and Georgia's waiver of extradition.

         On January 4, 2017, the court notified the parties of its intent to review petitioner's motion to dismiss as one filed pursuant to Rule 56, and directed respondent to file a reply to the actual innocence claim petitioner raised in response to respondent's motion to dismiss. The court additionally permitted the parties the opportunity to file supplemental materials. On the same date, the clerk of court issued a Rule 56 letter in compliance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975). Respondent subsequently filed its reply as directed, and petitioner submitted a response to the court's January 4, 2017, order. Petitioner's response included an appendix consisting of the following exhibits: Stocks affidavit; Moore's affidavit; petitioner's statement to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office; the victim's statement to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office; petitioner's personal affidavits; Detective Cahoon's investigative notes; Beaufort County February 25, 2010, probation violation; Georgia's waiver of extradition; and the Georgia DOC's sentence computation report and certificate of discharge.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment

         1. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

         2. Analysis

         The court first addresses an argument raised in respondent's second motion for summary judgment- whether petitioner's § 2254 action is time-barred. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court must be filed ...


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