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Murphy v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

November 15, 2017

LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



         Before the court is Patrick Henry Murphy's (“Murphy” or “Petitioner”) Motion to Alter or Amend this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Relief on Murphy's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 121), filed April 27, 2017. Lorie Davis (“Davis” or “Respondent”) has filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 122), to which Murphy has filed a reply (Doc. 123). The court denies the motion, as it properly addressed the arguments Murphy presented in his pleadings, and his new arguments do not warrant relief from the judgment.


         Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court “to rectify its own mistakes in the period immediately following entry of judgment.” White v. New Hampshire Dep't of Emp't Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450 (1982). Although district courts have discretion as to whether to reopen a case under Rule 59(e), “[r]econsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly.” Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Clancy v. Employers Health Ins. Co., 101 F.Supp.2d 463, 465 (E.D. La. 2000)).

“A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) ‘must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence' and ‘cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued.' ” Rosenzweig [v. Azurix Corp., 332 F.3d 854, 863-64 (quoting Simon v. United States, 891 F.2d 1154, 1159 (5th Cir.1990)]. Relief under Rule 59(e) is also appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law. See In re Benjamin Moore & Co., 318 F.3d 626, 629 (5th Cir.2002).

Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 567-68 (5th Cir. 2003) (footnote omitted).

         In determining whether to grant Rule 59 relief, the Fifth Circuit has set forth a balancing test between “two important judicial imperatives relating to such a motion: 1) the need to bring litigation to an end; and 2) the need to render just decisions on the basis of all the facts. The task for the district court is to strike the proper balance between these competing interests.” Templet, 367 F.3d at 479 (citations omitted).

         The district court, however, has no jurisdiction to consider a successive habeas petition, even if it is couched as a motion filed under Rule 59, unless the petitioner first obtains the required authorization from the court of appeals. A motion to reopen under Rule 59 is considered a successive habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) when it raises a claim that was or could have been raised in the petition. See Hardemon v. Quarterman, 516 F.3d 272, 275 (5th Cir. 2008).

         In determining whether a motion to reopen under Rule 59(e) is actually an impermissible successive habeas petition, this Circuit applies the same framework of Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524 (2005), that is used to determine whether a motion to reopen under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is a second or successive habeas petition, and, thus, subject to the AEDPA's additional jurisdictional requirements. See Williams v. Thaler, 602 F.3d 291, 304 (5th Cir. 2010).

In most cases, determining whether a Rule 60(b) motion advances one or more “claims” will be relatively simple. A motion that seeks to add a new ground for relief . . . will of course qualify. A motion can also be said to bring a “claim” if it attacks the federal court's previous resolution of a claim on the merits, since alleging that the court erred in denying habeas relief on the merits is effectively indistinguishable from alleging that the movant is, under the substantive provisions of the statutes, entitled to habeas relief. That is not the case, however, when a Rule 60(b) motion attacks, not the substance of the federal court's resolution of a claim on the merits, but some defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings.

Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 532 (emphasis in original) (footnotes omitted). “More specifically, a petitioner does not make a habeas corpus claim ‘when he merely asserts that a previous ruling which precluded a merits determination was in error-for example, a denial for such reasons as failure to exhaust, procedural default, or statute-of-limitations bar.'” Williams, 602 F.3d at 305 (quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 532 n.4).


         The motion makes a slightly different claim than that presented in the petition by asserting that the state court did not require the state to elect which theory of capital murder to convict, but it is not different enough to constitute a successive petition that would be beyond the jurisdiction of this court. This court properly denied this claim as procedurally barred because it was not presented on direct appeal. Alternatively, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) correctly denied the claim on direct appeal because Murphy complained only about the conviction and not the death sentence. Further a complaint under Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982), against the punishment phase instructions that included a special issue in satisfaction of the Enmund requirement would lack merit.

         A. Pr ...

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