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Griffin v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

February 27, 2018

JAMES R. GRIFFIN ADC #162792 PETITIONER
v.
WENDY KELLEY, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge D.P. Marshall, Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Background

         Pending before the Court is a § 2254 Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner, James R. Griffin (“Griffin”). Doc. 1. Before addressing Griffin's habeas claims, the Court will review the procedural history of the case in state court.

         On January 11, 2016, Griffin appeared, with counsel, in the Circuit Court of Craighead County, Arkansas, and, pursuant to a negotiated plea, pleaded guilty to one count of rape and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree. State of Arkansas v. James R. Griffin, Craighead County Circuit Court Case No. CR 2015-0751 (“state criminal case”).[1] Griffin was sentenced to an aggregate term of 360 months imprisonment. Docs. 5-1, 5-2.

         Griffin did not pursue a direct appeal from his convictions.[2] Griffin also did not pursue post-conviction relief under Rule 37 of the Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure.[3]

         On August 17, 2016, Griffin filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis in the state criminal case. Doc. 5-4. On April 21, 2017, having received no ruling on his pending petition, Griffin filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Arkansas Supreme Court. Doc. 5-5. On April 28, 2017, the Craighead County Circuit Court entered an Order denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, holding that the alleged basis for relief was not cognizable. Doc. 5-6.

         On May 18, 2017, Griffin appealed the Craighead County Circuit Court's denial of a writ of error coram nobis to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

         On June 8, 2017, Griffin, proceeding pro se, initiated this § 2254 action.[4] In his Petition, he alleges three grounds for relief:

(1) he is actually innocent of rape, as demonstrated by the original police report and investigative statements from all interested parties;
(2) his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to discover, from facts readily available in the police file, information helpful to the defense and in failing to challenge the prosecution's version of the facts; and
(3) his rape conviction was obtained in violation of his due process rights because it was obtained through fraud, duress, and mistake on the part of the prosecution team, defense counsel, and the trial court.

         On January 18, 2018, the Arkansas Supreme Court held the Griffin's request for an extension of time to file a brief in support of his pending petition for writ of error coram nobis was moot because it was clear from the record that Griffin could not prevail on appeal.[5] In doing so, the Court noted that Griffin could not prevail on appeal because “none of the claims were cognizable in a coram nobis petition.” Exhibit A at 1.

         Respondent argues that all of Griffin's habeas claims are procedurally defaulted. Doc. 5. Griffin has filed a Reply. Doc. 8. Thus, the issues are joined and ripe for resolution.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus be denied, and ...


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