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Harris v. Steele

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

November 27, 2017

IRA B. HARRIS, Petitioner,
v.
TROY STEELE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is petitioner Ira B. Harris' application for writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is currently confined in the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”) in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Because petitioner's application for writ of habeas corpus contains claims relating to two separate convictions, the Court will order petitioner to amend his application for relief to contain only his 2002 NGRI claims. In an abundance of caution, the Court will enter an Order of Partial Dismissal relating to his successive claims for relief as to his 1991 conviction.

         Background

         In 1991, a jury found petitioner guilty of six counts of robbery in the first degree, three counts of armed criminal action, and one count of assault in the first degree. The trial court sentenced petitioner to concurrent terms of life for each count of robbery, forty years for each count of armed criminal action, and thirty years for assault in the first degree.

         In 2001, petitioner was charged with assaulting a Department of Corrections Officer. In 2002, petitioner pled not guilty by reason of insanity (“NGRI”) in the Circuit Court of Callaway County and was committed to the Department of Mental Health and placed in Fulton State Hospital. Allegedly, petitioner was expelled from Fulton after a mere two weeks for threatening a staff member, and then returned to the prison population at ERDCC.

         Discussion

         In the application for writ of habeas corpus presently before the Court, with its exhibits and supplemental filings[1], petitioner appears to be litigating his original 1991 conviction and sentence, asserting that he was incompetent to be tried and sentenced. The Court's records show, however, that petitioner has previously brought a § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his 1991 conviction. See Harris v. Dormire, No. 4:96-CV-2069 DJS (E.D.Mo.). The § 2254 action was dismissed on the merits, and the dismissal was upheld on appeal. See Harris v. Dormire, No. 00295 (8th Cir.).

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A) provides that "[b]efore a second or successive application permitted by this section is filed in the district court, the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application." Because petitioner did not obtain permission from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to maintain the instant § 2254 application in this Court, the Court lacks authority to grant petitioner the relief he seeks relating to his 1991 conviction. To that end, if petitioner were only bringing claims relating to his 1991 conviction, the Court would be required to dismiss his complaint in its entirety for lack of jurisdiction.

         However, the Court notes that interspersed in petitioner's application for relief[2] are grounds related to his 2002 Callaway County NGRI plea. Specifically, petitioner has asserted that he has an entitlement under the Callaway County order committing him following his NGRI plea, as well as Mo. Rev. Stat. § 522.040[3], to remain in a mental institution as opposed to a prison.

         The Court has reviewed Missouri.Case.Net and found that petitioner appears to have exhausted his state court remedies with respect to his claims. Additionally, his claims relating to his NGRI plea appear to be timely filed. Therefore, the Court will order petitioner to file an amended petition in this action relating only to his 2002 Callaway County plea.

         In petitioner's amended application for writ, Harris must state exactly what grounds he is challenging in relation to the 2002 order committing him to the custody of the Department of Mental Health. In other words, petitioner must state whether he is challenging the denial of conditional or unconditional release, or whether he is challenging his commitment in the prison system instead of the Department of Mental Health.

         If Harris is challenging the denial of release to the Department of Mental Health, he must articulate the facts that he believes entitle him to relief. Failure to comply with this Memorandum and Order will result in the dismissal of this entire case.

         Last, the Court will address petitioner's request for counsel. At this point in time, petitioner has presented non-frivolous allegations in his application for relief. He has demonstrated that he can adequately present his claims to the Court. Additionally, neither the factual nor the legal issues in this case are complex. Thus, the Court will deny the motion for counsel at this time. The Court will entertain future motions for appointment of counsel as the case progresses.

         Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk of Court should provide petitioner a blank copy of a ยง 2254 application ...


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