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Brown v. Hunt

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

February 15, 2017

JAMES HARRELL BROWN, Petitioner,
v.
NORA HUNT, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner James Harrell Brown's pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1). Also before the Court is Respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 8.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who was convicted by a Burke County Superior Court jury on September 2, 2004, of three counts of statutory rape of a person 13, 14, or 15 years old, two counts of felonious breaking or entering, and one count each of first degree burglary, statutory sexual offense against a person 13, 14, or 15 years old, and indecent liberties with a child. (Pet. 1-2, Doc. No. 1.) The trial court sentenced Petitioner to four consecutive terms of 240 to 297 months imprisonment, based on his convictions for burglary, statutory rape, and statutory sexual offense. State v. Brown, 626 S.E.2d 307, 311 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2006). He also received a suspended sentence of 16 to 20 months for his indecent liberties conviction and suspended sentences of 6 to 8 months for each of his breaking or entering convictions. Id. Petitioner filed a direct appeal.

         On Feb. 21, 2006, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion finding that no prejudicial error occurred with respect to Petitioner's trial or sentencing but remanding for the trial court to correct several clerical errors in the sentencing judgments. Id. at 315. Petitioner's petition for discretionary review (“PDR”) was denied in the North Carolina Supreme Court on June 29, 2006. State v. Brown, 634 S.E.2d 221 ( N.C. 2006).

         Petitioner filed a motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”) in the Burke County Superior Court on January 2, 2008. (Pet. 8.) After numerous proceedings and filings in the state court, Petitioner's MAR was denied in its entirety on May 12, 2015. (Pet. 9.) Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari on January 4, 2016 in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, seeking review of the denial of his MAR; it was denied on January 19, 2016. (Pet. at 11.) Petitioner has since filed additional motions and petitions in the Burke County Superior Court and North Carolina Court of Appeals, all of which have been dismissed or denied. (Pet. 11-15.)

         Petitioner filed the instant habeas Petition in this Court on June 8, 2016, when he signed and placed it in the prison mailing system. (Pet. 91.) Petitioner raises nearly two dozen Grounds for Relief, contending that he was unconstitutionally convicted and sentenced because: (1) his three indictments for burglary were defective; (2) there was no physical evidence to prove his guilt; (3) the evidence against him was tainted and, therefore, invalid and inaccurate; (4) his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment; (5) case officers committed misconduct, mishandled, falsified, and withheld evidence, and gave perjured testimony at trial; (6) the conditions under which Petitioner gave a statement to law enforcement rendered the statement involuntary; (7) his convictions and sentences were based on a falsified statement made after Miranda rights were given and waived; (8) evidence was seized from his residence without probable cause; (9) the victim altered her testimony; (10) his convictions and sentences were based on a hostile witness's testimony; (11) e-mails introduced at trial had been altered; (12) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence that was not linked to Petitioner's case; (13) the trial judge was biased and prejudiced against him; (14) the State's evidence was not linked to Petitioner; (15) the State's evidence was insufficient to prove every element of each charge; (16) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise all of the issues raised in the instant Petition; (17) the State's appellate counsel misrepresented the record; (18) the trial court gave improper jury instructions; (19) some of the State's witnesses were not qualified to testify at trial; (20) post-conviction counsel was ineffective during MAR proceedings; (21) post-conviction counsel was ineffective in proceedings before the North Carolina Court of Appeals; and (22) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and prepare for trial. (Pet. 15-81.)

         Respondents filed an Answer, Motion for Summary Judgment, and Supporting Brief on September 30, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 7-9.) Respondents assert that all of the grounds raised in the Petition, except two, are barred by the statute of limitations. The two that are not barred, according to Respondents, raise claims that are not cognizable on federal habeas review.

         In accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975), the Court notified Petitioner of his right to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 10.) On October 21, 2016, Petitioner filed a Response. (Doc. No. 11.) This action is ripe for adjudication.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate in those cases where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and it appears that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); United States v. Lee, 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991). Any permissible inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Where, however, the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 provides a statute of limitations for § 2254 petitions by a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The petition must be filed within one year of the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review. § 2244(d)(1)(A).[1] The limitations period is tolled during the pendency of a properly filed state post-conviction action. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).

         Petitioner's judgment became final on or about September 27, 2006, 90 days after the North Carolina Supreme Court denied Petitioner's PDR, and Petitioner's time for filing a petition for writ of certiorari in the United State Supreme Court expired. See Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 525 (2003). The federal statute of limitations then ran for 365 days until it fully expired on or ...


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