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Price v. Muniz

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 22, 2019

ASHLEY LUTHER MURRAY PRICE, Petitioner,
v.
W.L. MUNIZ, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HONORABLE RONALD S.W. LEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition”) and all of the records herein, including: (1) the April 26, 2019 Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge (“Report and Recommendation” or “R&R”), recommending that the Petition be denied and this action be dismissed as time-barred; (2) petitioner's Motion to Supplement the Petition (“Motion”), filed on August 26, 2019, which attempts to raise an additional claim for relief; (3) respondent's Response to the Motion and supporting documents (“Lodged Doc.”) filed on September 11, 2019; and (4) petitioner's “opposition” to the Report and Recommendation (“Objections”), filed on September 23, 2019.

         The Court has made a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objection is made. The Court concurs with and accepts the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the United States Magistrate Judge, and overrules the Objections. The Court also finds that the new claim petitioner is attempting to add via the Motion is also time-barred, and therefore denies the Motion.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Petitioner's Objections to the Report and Recommendation Are Overruled

         Petitioner's Objections challenge the Report and Recommendation in multiple respects. The Court has considered and overruled all of petitioner's Objections, and discusses the principal objections herein.

         First, petitioner asserts that he is entitled to a later commencement date of the statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B) because of the “illegal state action” by prison officials who allegedly placed petitioner in unwarranted segregation for nearly two years and otherwise harassed petitioner, as reportedly raised in his pending civil rights case in the Eastern District of California (Price v. Barnes et al., E.D. Cal. Case No. 17-772-MCE(EFB)). See Objections at 21, 26-27, 29. Petitioner's prison conditions would entitle him to a later commencement date under Section 2244(d)(1)(B) “only if [the conditions] altogether prevented him from presenting his claims in any form, to any court.” See Ramirez v. Yates, 571 F.3d 993, 1000-01 (9th Cir. 2009) (emphasis original; citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996)). As is clear on the record, petitioner was able to file numerous cases with the state courts while he was in segregation and after. See R&R at 4-8, 17 (summarizing petitioner's filings). Petitioner is not entitled to a later commencement date under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B). For the reasons stated in the Report and Recommendation, an August 2, 2016 commencement date for the statute of limitations is appropriate. See R&R at 11-12.

         Second, petitioner asserts that he is entitled to statutory tolling because the Superior Court allegedly erred in finding untimely his First State Petition (Lodged Docs. 10-11), and his habeas petition challenging the 2008 Conviction (Other Federal Action Docket Nos. 23-1, 23-2, 21-27), which petitioner constructively filed on October 18, 2016.[1] Petitioner alleges that these petitions were not untimely because petitioner had no opportunity to discover the claims raised therein until he received his legal file from counsel on August 1, 2016. See Objections at 19-22 (noting that he explained his delay in subsequent petitions to the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court). Petitioner also argues that the state courts have not yet clarified what is a substantial delay or applied a consistent rule for petitioner “to be in any sort of compliance.” See Objections at 21 (citing, inter alia, Bennett v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573 (9th Cir. 2002) (discussing California's timeliness rules in context of determining whether habeas petition is procedurally defaulted), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 938 (2003), and King v. LaMarque, 464 F.3d 963 (9th Cir. 2006) (same)).

         Petitioner essentially is asking this Court to revisit the Superior Court's imposition of a procedural bar and find that his state court petitions were “properly filed” to entitle him to statutory tolling. However, the Superior Court's determination that the state habeas petitions were untimely is “‘the end of the matter' for purposes of § 2244(d)(2).” Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 414 (2005) (citation omitted); see also White v. Martel, 601 F.3d 882, 884 (9th Cir.) (“[T]he adequacy analysis used to decide procedural default issues is inapplicable to the issue of whether a state petition was ‘properly filed' for purposes of section 2244(d)(2). White's reliance on procedural bar case law is misplaced. White is not entitled to statutory tolling of the AEDPA statute of limitations.”) (internal citations omitted), cert. denied, 562 U.S. 896 (2010).

         Third, petitioner asserts that he is entitled to equitable tolling because he was unaware that he needed to explain/contest the timeliness of his state habeas petitions with the Superior Court and because he is otherwise ignorant of the law. See Objections at 22-25, 28. As explained in the Report and Recommendation at 18 n.11, “a pro se prisoner's confusion or ignorance of the law is not, itself, a circumstance warranting equitable tolling.” Waldron-Ramsey v. Pacholke, 556 F.3d 1008, 1013 n.4 (9th Cir.) (citation omitted), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 897 (2009). To combat this conclusion, petitioner also alleges that during the relevant time period: (1) he was prescribed psychotropic medications; (2) he was not allowed out of segregation for six to seven months at a time; (3) from summer to winter of 2016 he suffered several nervous breakdowns and two suicide attempts for which he was placed in close watch observation; (4) he was assaulted and placed back in segregation on November 3, 2017 for transfer to another prison; but (5) he also was studying the habeas process and how to federalize his claims. See Objections at 24-28.[2]

         Notwithstanding these allegations, from August 2, 2016 through January 2, 2017, petitioner was able to file the Accusation, First State Petition, Second State Petition, and habeas petitions with the Superior Court and California Court of Appeal challenging his 2008 Conviction. See R&R at 4-6 & 6 n.7. From January 3, 2017 through August 1, 2017, petitioner was able to file the Third State Petition, Fourth State Petition, the habeas petition with the California Supreme Court challenging his 2008 Conviction, the civil rights complaint in Price v. Barnes, et al., and he mailed eight separate pieces of legal correspondence. (Id. at 5-6, 6 n.7, 18-19). For the reasons stated in the Report and Recommendation, accepting petitioner's allegations as true, he has not shown that his mental condition together with his ignorance of the law made it impossible under the totality of the circumstances to meet his filing deadline. (Id. at 19).

         Finally, petitioner alleges that he is actually innocent, and that an evidentiary hearing would show the following:

1. Two weeks prior to petitioner's arrest, he had a conversation with Ebonee Green and a girlfriend who invited him to a “hotel party.” Petitioner told Green that he could not go because he recently purchased a “fixer upper” car and it “ate up his accessible finances.” Green and her friend joked in disbelief that petitioner could turn down a tryst because he had just gotten out of jail. Petitioner spoke with Green about HIV and aids, telling her that his sister who raised him (and who passed away days before his trial ...

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