United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
BRANDON P. WHITTLEY, Petitioner,
TROY STEELE, Respondent,
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the petition of Brandon
Whittley for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Upon review, the Court finds that petitioner is
not entitled to relief. As a result, the petition is denied.
27, 2015, the State charged petitioner with one count of
stealing property in excess of $500. Missouri v.
Whittley, No. 13WA-CR00445-01 (Washington County).
Petitioner pled guilty, and on November 6, 2015, the court
sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment. The court,
however, suspended the execution of the sentence and gave him
five years' probation. On September 6, 2016, the court
suspended petitioner's probation and scheduled a
revocation hearing. Finally, on March 6, 2017, the court
revoked his probation and ordered that he serve his
petition, petitioner argues that stealing in excess of $500
is no longer a felony under Missouri v. Bazell, 497
S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc), and therefore, his due process rights
were violated when the trial court ordered that he serve the
original seven-year sentence. He also claims he was denied
equal protection because other criminal defendants have been
granted relief under Bazell.
time petitioner was sentenced, stealing property in excess of
$500 was subject to felony enhancement under Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 570.030.3. However, in Bazell, the Missouri
Supreme Court held that the enhancement did not apply to
Bazell's sentence for stealing firearms. Id. at
266-67. Since then, the Missouri Court of Appeals has held
that the felony enhancement does not apply to stealing in
excess of $500. See Missouri v. Bowen, ___ S.W.3d
___, 2017 WL 361185 *2-3 (January 24, 2017) (citing cases).
The Court notes that Bazell did not declare §
570.030.3 to be unconstitutional. Rather, the court decided
that, as a matter of statutory interpretation, the felony
enhancement did not apply to the offense. Bazell,
497 S.W.3d at 266-67.
first glance, it may appear that petitioner has failed to
exhaust his state remedies by failing to file an appeal or a
motion for postconviction relief before filing this action.
However, the limitations period for challenging parole
revocation decisions begins when the trial court enters the
revocation order. See Davis v. Purkett, 296
F.Supp.2d 1027, 1029-30 (E.D. Mo. 2003). Therefore, this
matter is ripe for review.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), a district court may only entertain
a petition for writ of habeas corpus if the petitioner
“is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws
or treaties of the United States.” “[I]t is not
the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine
state-court determinations on state-law questions.”
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991);
see Poe v. Caspari, 39 F.3d 204, 207 (8th Cir. 1994)
(“Jurisdiction is no exception to the general rule that
federal courts will not engage in collateral review of state
court decisions based on state law.”); Watts v.
Bonneville, 879 F.2d 685, 687 (9th Cir. 1989) (alleged
violation of state sentencing statute not cognizable in
federal habeas proceedings). Furthermore, a state prisoner
“may not . . . transform a state-law issue into a
federal one merely by asserting a violation of due
process.” Langford v. Day, 110 F.3d 1380, 1389
(9th Cir. 1996).
regard to his due process claim, petitioner argues that the
state court incorrectly applied the felony enhancement under
Missouri law. He has not alleged or shown that the
enhancement provision is facially unconstitutional. The
proper interpretation of state statutes is a matter for the
state courts to decide. Section 2254 does not confer
jurisdiction on the federal district courts to determine such
matters. Consequently, the claim is not cognizable in these
petitioner's equal protection clause is frivolous. To
succeed on an equal protection claim, a petitioner must
“allege and prove something more than different
treatment by government officials” to state an equal
protection claim. Batra v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of
Nebraska, 79 F.3d 717, 721 (8th Cir. 1996). “[T]he
key requirement is that plaintiff allege and prove unlawful,
purposeful discrimination.” Id. at 722;
see Albright v. Oliver, 975 F.2d 343, 348 (7th
Cir.1992) (“you must be singled out because of your
membership in the class, and not just be the random victim of
governmental incompetence”), aff'd on other
grounds, 510 U.S. 266 (1994); Booher v. United
States Postal Serv., 843 F.2d 943, 944 (6th Cir.1988)
(“[t]he equal protection concept does not duplicate
common law tort liability by conflating all persons not
injured into a preferred class”); Joyce v.
Mavromatis, 783 F.2d 56, 57 (6th Cir.1986) (“[t]he
equal protection argument fails here because the wrong is not
alleged to be directed toward an individual as a member of a
class or group singled out for discriminatory
treatment”). As a result, petitioner is not entitled to
petitioner has failed to make a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right, which requires a
demonstration “that jurists of reason would find it
debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the
denial of a constitutional right.” Khaimov v.
Crist, 297 F.3d 783, 785 (8th Cir. 2002) (quotation
omitted). Thus, the Court will not issue a certificate of
appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that petitioner's motion for leave
to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED.
FURTHER ORDERED that the petition for writ of habeas corpus
is DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED.
FURTHER ORDERED that the Court will not issue a ...