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Rutlin v. Griffith

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

October 26, 2017

JERRY RUTLIN, Petitioner,



         This matter is before the Court on the Petition of Jerry Rutlin for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Presently pending is Rutlin's Motion for Discovery. (Doc. 29.) Respondent has filed Suggestions in Opposition to Motion for Discovery (Doc. 31), and Petitioner has filed a Reply (Doc. 32).

         A jury found Rutlin guilty of concealing prohibited articles in a correctional facility, and the Circuit Court of St. Francois County, Missouri, sentenced Rutlin to life imprisonment. In his Motion, Rutlin moves the Court pursuant to Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing ' 2254 Cases, to direct the State of Missouri to make available for fingerprint testing the weapon at issue in the underlying criminal case. Rutlin argues that this evidence is relevant to his fifth ground for relief-that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to have the weapon tested for fingerprint evidence. He contends that, had fingerprint evidence been obtained and compared with the fingerprints of Rutlin and other third parties, there is a reasonable probability that exculpatory evidence would have been found.

         I. Legal Standard

         “A habeas petitioner, unlike the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course.” Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997). Instead, Rule 6(a) authorizes a judge “for good cause, [to] authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery.” Rule 6(a), Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. Under Rule 6(b), the requesting party must provide reasons for the request. To establish good cause, a petitioner must make “specific allegations” that give a court “reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is ... entitled to relief.” Newton v. Kemna, 354 F.3d 776, 783 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting Bracy, 520 U.S. at 904 and 908-09). Rule 6's “good cause” standard requires a petitioner to at least attempt to identify what he expects to uncover through his discovery requests. Braden v. Bagley, No. 2:04-CV-842, 2007 WL 1026454, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 30, 2007). The court will not authorize a petitioner to engage in a “fishing expedition.” Murphy v. Johnson, 205 F.3d 809, 814 (5th Cir. 2000) (“Simply put, Rule 6 does not authorize fishing expeditions.”).

         II. Discussion

         Rutlin acknowledges that his fifth ground for relief has not been previously presented, and argues that it was not presented in the post-conviction proceedings as a result of ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel. He states that, under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), he can show a “substantial” claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel was not raised in state post-conviction proceedings because of ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel, which excuses his procedural default of this claim. Rutlin contends the requested fingerprint evidence will demonstrate the prejudice necessary to support the underlying ineffective assistance of counsel claim and excuse his procedural default.

         Respondent argues that the motion should be denied because Rutlin provides no good cause for discovery and Rutlin cannot demonstrate an entitlement to an evidentiary hearing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). Respondent argues in the alternative that Rutlin's underlying ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim is meritless.[1]

         Rutlin responds that he need not meet the standard for an evidentiary hearing set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2) in order to obtain discovery. He further argues that he is not seeking discovery on the merits of his claim but, rather, to demonstrate that his procedural default of Ground Five is excused under Martinez.

         Martinez allows a petitioner to argue “cause” based on post-conviction review counsel's ineffectiveness for counsel's failure to raise a “substantial” ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim. 566 U.S. at 14.

         Section 2254(e)(2) applies to evidentiary hearings, and states:

         If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows that-

(A) the claim relies on-
(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was ...

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