United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. NUMBERS, II UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Marlow Williams, a state inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 (D.E. 1). This matter is currently before the court on
the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment (D.E. 26,
30). After reviewing the parties' submissions, the
undersigned recommends that the district court allow the
defendants' motion, deny Williams's motion, and
dismiss Williams's complaint.
was convicted of first degree murder and robbery with a
dangerous weapon in July 1993. Compl. at 5, D.E. 1. During a
single sentencing proceeding, the state court sentenced
Williams to consecutive terms of life imprisonment and 40
years incarceration, respectively. See Am. Compl. at
5, D.E. 3; Pl. Ex. at 10, D.E. 3-2. As of January 2013,
Williams served the statutory minimum twenty-year term on his
life sentence. Am. Compl. at 6, D.E. 3; see also
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1371(a) (establishing statutory
minimums for parole eligibility).
served the minimum term on his life sentence, Williams sought
commencement of his robbery sentence. The North Carolina Post
Release and Parole Commission (“Commission”)
notified Williams “that his second sentence will not
commence as it runs after your life sentence, which has no
expiration date. Unless you are sooner paroled by the . . .
Commission, you will spend your natural life in prison on
your sentence number 1.” Pl. Ex. at 9, D.E. 3-2.
Williams filed a civil complaint in North Carolina state
court challenging this determination. Am. Compl. at 4- 5,
North Carolina Court of Appeals (“NCCOA”)
described Williams's civil complaint as seeking:
(1) a declaratory judgment that N.C. Gen. Stat. §
15A-1355(a) is valid and mandates that his forty-year robbery
sentence begin to run upon completion of the twenty-year
minimum term on his life sentence, (2) an injunction
compelling the Department and the Parole Commission to treat
his forty-year robbery sentence as having commenced upon
completion of the twenty-year minimum term on his life
sentence, (3) a declaratory judgment that N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 15A-1371(a) is valid and renders Williams eligible for
parole upon completion of the twenty-year minimum term on his
life sentence, (4) a declaratory judgment that his United
States and North Carolina rights of due process and equal
protection are being violated by Defendants' application
of the sentencing and parole statutes, and (5) an injunction
to enforce Williams's constitutional rights.
Williams v. Perry, 794 S.E.2d 557, 558, 2016 WL
7100600 at * 1 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished table
opinion). The Rowan County Superior Court dismissed
Williams's claims on summary judgment, and the NCCOA
affirmed. Id. at * 1, 5.
the NCCOA rejected Williams's interpretation of §
1355(a). Section 1355(a) controls the commencement of
sentences, stating that a consecutive sentence
“commences to run when the State has custody of the
defendant following completion of the prior sentence.”
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1355(a). Based on a plain reading of
the statute, the NCCOA held that the “Commission
correctly stated in its letter to Williams that his
forty-year robbery sentence will not begin to run until
completion of his prior life sentence.”
Williams, 2016 WL 7100600 at * 3.
the NCCOA rejected Williams's argument that §
1371(a) entitled him to immediate parole eligibility. Section
§ 1371 states that a prisoner sentenced under the North
Carolina Fair Sentencing Act for specific felonies, as
Williams was, is eligible for parole after 20 years. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 15A-1371(a). In rejecting Williams's
argument, the NCCOA found that § 1371(a) must be read
alongside North Carolina General Statute § 15A-1354(b),
In determining the effect of consecutive sentences . . . [the
North Carolina Department of Public Safety
(“DPS”)] must treat the defendant as though he
has been committed for a single term with the following
incidents . . . The maximum prison sentence consists of the
total of the maximum terms of the consecutive sentences . . .
The minimum term consists of the total of the minimum terms
of the consecutive sentences.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1354(b). Accordingly the NCCOA
held that § 1354(b) requires DPS “to treat
Williams as being committed for a single term with a maximum
prison sentence of life plus forty years, and a minimum term
of twenty-seven years.” Williams, 2016 WL
7100600 at * 4. Therefore, it concluded, “[t]o allow
Williams parole after only twenty years would be to ignore
the required minimum term for his robbery sentence in
contravention of section 15A-1354(b).” Id.
the NCCOA rejected Williams's federal constitutional
claims, finding that DPS and the Commission correctly applied
the law and did not deprive Williams of any liberty interest.
Id. at 5.
filed a notice of appeal and sought review of the NCCOA's
decision from the North Carolina Supreme Court. The North
Carolina Supreme Court dismissed Williams's notice of
appeal, and denied his petition for discretionary ...