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Ringo v. Roper

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

September 3, 2014

EARL RINGO, Petitioner,
v.
DONALD ROPER, Respondent.

ORDER

BRIAN C. WIMES, District Judge.

Before the Court is Petitioner Earl Ringo's Motion for Relief from Judgment (Doc. #78). The Court being duly advised of the premises, and for good cause shown, denies said Motion.

BACKGROUND

In 1999, a jury in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri, convicted Petitioner Earl Ringo on two counts of first-degree murder and recommended a sentence of the death penalty on each count. The trial court sentenced Ringo accordingly. The trial court was affirmed on direct appeal, and the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

On March 2, 2001, Ringo filed a pro se motion under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15, seeking post-conviction relief on fifteen grounds. Appointed counsel filed an amended Rule 29.15 motion on June 7, 2001, asserting five grounds for relief. The court denied the amended motion on November 13, 2002.

Appointed appellate counsel, Melissa Pendergraph, filed a five-point appeal of the denial decision. While Ringo's appeal was pending before the Missouri Supreme Court, Pendergraph contacted attorneys Cheryl A. Pilate and Kent Gipson, to inquire about their willingness to represent Ringo in the event he pursued federal habeas corpus relief. Both Pilate and Gipson confirmed they would take Ringo's case and Pendergraph sent Ringo an affidavit on October 23, 2003 to facilitate federal appointment of counsel. Thereafter, the Missouri Supreme Court issued the mandate on its order affirming the denial of state post-conviction relief on December 23, 2003.

On the same day, Ringo filed motions in this Court to proceed in forma pauperis and for appointment of counsel. The Court granted the motions and appointed attorney Shane Paul Cantin as counsel on January 8, 2004. On January 21, 2004, the Court appointed Bruce Galloway as co-counsel. Then, on February 24, 2004, Cantin sought leave to withdraw, citing unforeseen changes at his law firm that would impact his availability to work on Ringo's case. On March 25, 2004, the Court granted Cantin leave to withdraw and appointed Margaret Elise Barker as cocounsel to Galloway.

Barker, Galloway, and Ringo met on April 30, 2004. On June 28, 2004, Ringo sent letters to both Barker and Galloway, inquiring about their minimal contact with him. Barker filed a notice of appearance in Ringo's case on June 30, 2004. Then, on July 12, 2004, Ringo wrote a letter to the Court, noting lack of contact with his counsel and requesting a six-month extension of the statutory deadline to file a § 2254 petition. On August 25, 2004, the Court denied Ringo's pro se motion as "out of order, " and informed Ringo that it would forward the motion to Ringo's counsel. Thereafter, Ringo wrote to the Court, again noting a lack of contact and requesting that the Court appoint Pilate to represent him.

On October 4, 2004, Ringo filed a pro se motion for appointment of new counsel. On November 4, 2004, the Court granted the motion and appointed Pilate and William C. Odle to represent Ringo. On November 23, 2004, Pilate wrote to Ringo, stating counsel had identified Ringo's strongest issues and had "already made substantial progress."

On December 21, 2004, two days before the statute of limitations ran under § 2244(d), counsel filed a § 2254 petition on Ringo's behalf, asserting six grounds for habeas corpus relief. After the deadline, on January 31, 2005, counsel filed an amended petition that supplemented the same six grounds. Although filed without leave, the Court considered the amended petition, but denied § 2254 relief on August 22, 2005. The Court also denied Ringo's motion to alter the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), but subsequently granted a certificate of appealability on two claims. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of these two points, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied writ of certiorari.

On May 7, 2014, Ringo's appointed counsel filed the instant Motion for Relief from Judgment (Doc. #78) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), asserting that the circumstances surrounding his federal habeas proceeding demonstrate violation of his constitutional rights. Ringo argues that the motion is a true Rule 60(b) motion and the final judgment should be set aside based upon extraordinary circumstances that justify the tolling of the statute of limitations dictated by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).

DISCUSSION

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) provides that the Court may grant relief from final judgment for various enumerated reasons. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). The Court may also grant relief under this rule for "any other reason that justifies" it. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b)(6). In the context of this case, Rule 60(b) may apply, but "only to the extent that it is not inconsistent with ...


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