from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
ELROD, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
D. Edwards, a Texas state prisoner on death row who is
scheduled for execution on January 26, 2017, filed a Rule
60(b) motion and requests for stays of execution in federal
district court. The district court concluded that
Edwards's Rule 60(b)(6) motion constituted a
second-or-successive habeas petition because it sought to
advance new claims and so it transferred Edwards's motion
and the requests to stay his execution to this court. On the
narrow issue of whether the alleged abandonment of Edwards by
his federally appointed habeas counsel constitutes a defect
in the integrity of the original habeas proceedings that may
authorize Rule 60(b) relief, the district court concluded
that Rule 60(b) relief was not warranted, but granted a COA
on this issue. Edwards appealed the district court's
ruling, and filed a request for a stay in this court. Because
we conclude that Edwards's Rule 60(b) motion is a
successive habeas claim and that alternatively he is not
entitled to Rule 60(b) relief, we DENY the Rule 60(b) motion
and therefore also DENY Edwards's requests for a stay of
November 2003, Edwards was convicted of capital murder and
sentenced to death for the murder of a restaurant worker in
connection with an armed robbery. Another restaurant worker
was also murdered during the course of the robbery. Edwards
had previously worked at the restaurant. Edwards filed a
direct appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
raising thirteen points of error. Edwards v. State,
No. AP-74, 844, 2006 WL 475783, at *1 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006).
Among other things, Edwards challenged: (1) the factual and
legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury's
finding that he was a continuing threat to society; (2) the
denial of his motion to quash a panel of three prospective
jurors whom Edwards alleged were incorrectly instructed
regarding mitigating evidence; (3) the trial court's
granting of the State's challenges to two venire members
based on their alleged biases; (4) the trial court's
refusal to instruct the jury that it could consider that
Edwards would not be eligible for parole for at least forty
years if given a life sentence in the context of determining
if he was an ongoing danger; (5) the constitutionality of the
death penalty in light of Texas law not requiring the State
to prove the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances
beyond a reasonable doubt; (6) the constitutionality of the
death penalty on various other grounds; and (7) the
constitutionality of his conviction and sentence based on the
cumulative effect of the other errors he asserted.
Id. at *1-4. The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected
each of these claims. Id. at *4.
then filed a state habeas application, asserting six
challenges to the validity of his conviction and sentence.
See Ex parte Edwards, No. WR-73027-01, 2009 WL
4932198, at *1 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). The state trial court
denied relief, as did the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Edwards filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
Texas. See Edwards v. Stephens, No. 3:10-cv-6-M,
2014 WL 3880437 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 6, 2014). In his petition,
Edwards asserted six grounds for relief: (1) that he was
deprived of a fair and impartial jury when the trial court
denied his motion to quash a panel of venire persons who had
allegedly been incorrectly instructed regarding mitigating
evidence; (2) that he was deprived of a fair and impartial
jury when the state trial court granted the State's
challenge to a prospective juror; (3) that he was deprived of
a fair and impartial jury when the state trial court granted
the State's for-cause strike of another prospective
juror; (4) that his trial counsel was constitutionally
ineffective when he failed to challenge the Dallas County
venire selection process as violating Edwards's right to
a jury composed of a cross-section of the community; (5) that
he was deprived of a fair and impartial jury when the trial
court denied his for-cause challenges of two prospective
jurors; and (6) that his trial counsel was constitutionally
ineffective by failing to raise on direct appeal claims
regarding the trial court's denial of Edwards's
for-cause challenges to the two prospective jurors.
Id. at *1-2.
district court denied all of these claims, and further denied
Edwards a certificate of appealability (COA). Id. at
appealed the district court's denial of a COA to this
court, but only as to his argument that the trial court's
denial of his motion to quash a panel of venire persons
violated his right to an impartial jury under the Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendments because those persons had allegedly
been given an improper jury instruction. See Edwards v.
Stephens, 612 F.App'x 719, 720 (5th Cir. 2015). This
court denied Edwards's application for a COA.
Id. at 723. Edwards then filed a petition for a writ
of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States,
challenging the denial of a COA, which was denied.
Edwards v. Stephens, 136 S.Ct. 403 (2015).
January 10, 2017, Edwards filed in the district court a Rule
60(b) motion to alter or amend the judgment denying his
habeas petition, along with a request to stay his execution.
Transfer Order; No. 3:10-CV-6-M, N.D. Tex., Jan. 19, 2017.
The district court determined that Edwards's motion
sought to advance new claims, making it a successive petition
for which it lacked jurisdiction. The district court
transferred the successive application for habeas relief with
Edwards's applications to stay his execution to this
court on January 19, 2017. In the same order, the district
court also concluded that Rule 60(b) relief was not warranted
on Edwards's claim that he was effectively abandoned by
his federal habeas counsel, but it granted a COA on this
January 18, 2017, Edwards filed a motion for stay of
execution and a subsequent application for a writ of habeas
corpus in state court. See Ex parte Edwards, No.
WR-73, 027-02 (Tex. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2017). In that
application, he argued that: (1) his conviction was based on
false, misleading, and scientifically invalid testimony; (2)
the decision in Ex parte Graves, 70 S.W.3d 103 (Tex.
Crim. App. 2002), should be overruled so that he could
present otherwise forfeited claims; and (3) the State
suppressed material, exculpatory evidence that would
undermine the confidence of the outcome of his trial. On
January 24, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the
application as an abuse of the writ and denied Edwards's
motion for a stay of execution. See Ex parte
Edwards, No. WR-73, 027-02.
review a district court's determination as to whether a
Rule 60(b) motion constitutes a second-or-successive habeas
petition de novo. In re Jasper, 559
F.App'x 366, 370 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Ward v.
Norris, 577 F.3d 925, 932 (8th Cir. 2009)).
reviewing the district court's determinations to grant or
deny relief under Rule 60(b), we will reverse only for an
abuse of discretion. Tamayo v. Stephens, 740 F.3d
986, 990 (5th Cir. 2014). "A district court abuses its
discretion if it bases its decision on an erroneous view of
the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the
evidence." Hesling v. CSX Trans., Inc., 396
F.3d 632, 638 (5th Cir. 2005). It "is not enough that
the granting of relief might have been permissible, or even
warranted-denial must have been so unwarranted as to
constitute an abuse of discretion." Diaz v.
Stephens, 731 F.3d 370, 374 (5th Cir. 2013).