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Morgan v. Javois

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 28, 2017




         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se petitioner Reginald A. Morgan for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The motion will be granted, and the petition will be dismissed.

         Procedural History[1]

         In 1992, Morgan was charged in Missouri state court with first degree assault, armed criminal action, and unlawful use of a weapon for allegedly stabbing a man. In March of 1994, the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis entered judgment acquitting Morgan on the ground of mental disease or defect, and ordered him committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health. The court ordered that Morgan was not to be released except in accordance with statutory procedures and court approval. Morgan has been in psychiatric care ever since.

         Over the years, Morgan has applied to state and federal courts seeking release on various grounds. In January 2014, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this district court. Morgan v. Javois, Case No. 4:14-cv-150-JMB (E.D. Mo. Nov. 5, 2015). While that petition was pending, Morgan filed a state court application for release. The Circuit Court denied Morgan's application, and he appealed that judgment to the Missouri Court of Appeals. See In the Matter of: Reginald Morgan, Case No. ED 102470 (Mo.Ct.App. Apr. 29, 2015). However, because Morgan failed to comply with Missouri Supreme Court Rules, the Court of Appeals dismissed his appeal on April 29, 2015. Subsequently, on November 5, 2015, this United States District Court dismissed Morgan's petition. The Court wrote, inter alia, that to the extent Morgan could be understood to assert a claim under Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71 (1992), such claim was procedurally barred. Morgan does not assert, nor does independent research reveal, that he filed any subsequent applications for conditional or unconditional release in state court.

         The Petition

         In the instant petition, Morgan asserts a single ground for relief, challenging the legality of the 1994 state court judgment on the ground that his attorney was ineffective for entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. [2] Specifically, Morgan writes:

My nephew stabbed me three times and I stabbed him once and my public defender entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI).

(Docket No. 1 at 5). Morgan includes no allegations that he has recovered his sanity or that he is no longer ill or dangerous, nor does he specifically state an intent to challenge a state court decision denying him conditional or unconditional release.

         Morgan states that he sought various forms of review on the grounds that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance and his plea was unconstitutional. He also claims that he applied for conditional release on the grounds that the trial court had no jurisdiction to accept his plea. However, he provides few details and no dates regarding these prior proceedings. Attached to the petition are records from Morgan's prior habeas proceedings in this Court, a September 29, 2014 circuit court order denying him counsel in civil proceedings concerning an application for conditional release, and an April 21, 2014 letter from the Supreme Court of the United States indicating that a petition for writ of certiorari was denied. (Docket No. 1, Attach. 1 at 1-2).


         To the extent Morgan can be understood to challenge the 1994 state court judgment, the petition is subject to dismissal because it is successive. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") provides that "[a] claim presented in a second or successive habeas corpus application ... shall be dismissed." 28 U.S.C.A § 2244(b). The Supreme Court has recognized that this prohibition does not foreclose a second petition that raises a claim that was "unripe" at the time of the first habeas petition. Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 943-45 (2007). Here, while it does not appear that Morgan raised the claim he asserts in ground one in his earlier habeas proceedings, the claim was ripe and could have been raised there. Therefore, to the extent Morgan attempts to raise the claim here, the petition is subject to dismissal as successive. See 28 U.S.C.A § 2244(b).

         The petition is also untimely. Section 2254(d)(1) of Title 28 establishes a one-year limitation period on petitions filed pursuant to § 2254. The state court judgment Morgan seeks to challenge in the instant petition was rendered in 1994, and Morgan filed the instant petition more than twenty years later, on June 7, 2017.[3] By any calculation, Morgan filed the instant petition in excess of the limitation period.

         To the extent that petitioner can be understood to seek conditional or unconditional release, the petition is subject to dismissal due to his failure to exhaust his available state remedies. Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A) prohibits a grant of habeas relief on behalf of a person in state custody unless that person has "exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." "The exhaustion requirement of § 2254(b) ensures that the state courts have the opportunity fully to consider federal-law challenges to a state custodial judgment before the lower federal courts may entertain a collateral attack upon that judgment." Duncan v. Walker,533 U.S. 167, 178-79 (2001). The exhaustion requirement prevents a federal court from granting a habeas petition based on a constitutional violation that could be ...

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