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Vaughn v. Kelley

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

April 24, 2019

CHRISTOPHER R. VAUGHN PETITIONER
v.
WENDY KELLY, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner, Christopher R. Vaughn, (“Vaughn”) an inmate confined at the Ouachita River Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), in Malvern, Arkansas, filed this Petition for writ of a habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on April 26, 2018. ECF No. 1. Director Wendy Kelly (“Respondent”), filed a Response on June 15, 2018. ECF No. 9.

         The Petition was referred for findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for the disposition of the case. The Court has reviewed the Petition, the Response, pleadings, and all exhibits submitted in this case. For the following reasons, the Court recommends the Petition be denied.

         A. Procedural Background [1]

         On February 5, 2014, Vaughn was convicted by a Howard County, Arkansas jury on one count of possession of firearms by certain persons and sentenced as a habitual offender to forty (40) years imprisonment in the ADC. ECF No. 9-2. Vaughn appealed this conviction to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Vaughn's conviction was affirmed in an opinion delivered on February 25, 2015. See Vaughn v. State, 2015 Ark.App. 136, 456 S.W.3d 767. ECF No. 9-3. Pursuant to the Arkansas Supreme Court Rules, Vaughn had eighteen (18) days following the delivery of the opinion in which he could have sought rehearing in the Court of Appeals or a review by the Arkansas Supreme Court. See Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 2-3 (a), 2-4 (a). Vaughn did not seek a rehearing or a review and therefore the decision by the Arkansas Court of Appeals was final on March 16, 2015.

         On April 27, 2015 Vaughn sought relief from his conviction in the trial court pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. ECF No. 9-7. This petition was filed forty-one (41) days after the Court of Appeals direct appeal decision became final. A hearing was held on March 30, 2016, during which Vaughn was represented by counsel. The following day an order was entered denying the Rule 37 petition. ECF No. 9-9. Vaughn appealed the denial, contending again that his trial counsel was ineffective for not properly preserving issues and arguments. See Vaughn v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 241, 519 S.W.3d 717. ECF No. 9-10. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling on April 19, 2017. Id. By operation of law that decision became final eighteen (18) days later on May 8, 2017.

         B. Current Petition:

         On April 26, 2018, [2] Vaughn filed the instant Petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his 2014 state court conviction and raises the following claims for relief:

1. The evidence at trial did not support his conviction and therefore his right to due process was violated. ECF No. 1, pp. 5-7; and
2. His trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to contest the jury's verdict on appeal, failed to obtain a ruling from the circuit court on constitutional challenges - specifically concerning the sentencing with respect to other offenses-, and failed to strike a member of the jury who allegedly was distantly related by marriage to the prosecuting attorney. ECF No. 1, pp. 8-9.

Respondent asserts the claims in the Petition are both time-barred by 28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(1)(A) and procedurally defaulted. ECF No. 9.

         C. Discussion

         1. One-year Statute of Limitations

         On April 24, 1996, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (hereinafter "AEDPA") was signed into law. The law made several changes to the federal habeas corpus statutes, including the addition of a one-year statute of limitations. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2244(d)(1). The AEPDA provides the one-year limitations period shall run from the latest of four possible situations. Section 2244(d)(1)(A) specifies the limitations period shall run from the date a judgment becomes final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review. Section 2244(d)(1)(B) specifies the limitations period shall run from the date an impediment to filing created by the State is removed. Section 2244(d)(1)(C) specifies the limitations period shall run from the date in which a constitutional right has been initially recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases ...


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