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Hunt v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 13, 2019

PORTNEY HUNT, TDCJ #01981650, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIM LAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Portney Hunt (TDCJ #01981650) has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus By a Person in State Custody ("Petition") (Docket Entry No. 1) to challenge a conviction for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Now pending is Respondent [Lorie] Davis's Motion for Summary Judgment With Brief in Support ("Respondent's MS J") (Docket Entry No. 16), arguing that the Petition is barred by the governing one-year statute of limitations. Hunt has not filed a response and her time to do so has expired. After considering the pleadings, the state court records, and the applicable law, the court will grant Respondent's MSJ and will dismiss this action for the reasons explained below.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         On January 20, 2015, Hunt entered a guilty plea in the 263rd District Court of Harris County, Texas, to charges of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, namely a firearm, in Cause No. 1401138.[1] In exchange for that plea the State agreed to recommend a 15-year prison sentence.[2] On February 23, 2015, the trial court found Hunt guilty as charged and sentenced her to 15 years' imprisonment under the terms of the parties' negotiated plea agreement.[3] Hunt, who waived the right to appeal when she entered her guilty plea, did not pursue a direct appeal.[4]

         On April 27, 2018, Hunt executed an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Seeking Relief from [a] Final Felony Conviction Under [Texas] Code of Criminal Procedure Article 11.07 ("State Habeas Application") to challenge her conviction.[5] In several overlapping grounds for relief, Hunt raised the following arguments:

1. She was denied the right to counsel during interrogation by police and was not advised of her Miranda rights.
2. There was no DNA, fingerprints, or other evidence to support her identification as the perpetrator.
3. The entire court proceeding was unjust and unfair because she was denied effective assistance of counsel, who failed to conduct an adequate investigation.
4. The conviction violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because she was abandoned by counsel, who failed to appear at numerous court dates or present mitigation evidence of her cooperation with law enforcement.
5. She was denied effective assistance of counsel when her attorney "coerced" her to sign the plea agreement by advising her that she could receive more time. He also failed to advise her of the right to appeal.[6]

         Defense counsel filed a detailed affidavit refuting the allegations of ineffective-assistance, noting that the State had evidence in the form of surveillance footage showing that Hunt participated in as many as four aggravated robberies and that her guilty plea was voluntarily made.[7] The state habeas corpus court, which also presided over Hunt's guilty plea and sentencing, found that none of her claims had merit and recommended that relief be denied.[8] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and denied Hunt's State Habeas Application without a written order on September 26, 2018.[9]

         On November 1, 2018, Hunt submitted the pending Petition for federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 from her state court aggravated robbery conviction.[10] She asserts many of the same grounds for relief that were rejected on state habeas corpus review.[11] The respondent argues that the Petition must be dismissed as barred by the governing one-year statute of limitations on federal habeas corpus review.[12]

         II. Discussion

         A. The One-Year Statute of Limitations

         According to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (the "AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996), all federal habeas corpus petitions filed after April 24, 1996, are subject to a one-year limitations period found in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d), which provides as follows:

(d) (1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The ...

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