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Prince v. Davis

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

August 26, 2019

GLENN THOMAS PRINCE, TDCJ # 01207064, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. HANKS JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Glenn Thomas Prince, an inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division (“TDCJ”), filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 claiming that he should be eligible for release on mandatory supervision. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 10) and supplied state court records (Dkt. 11). Plaintiff has filed a response (Dkt. 12) and the motion is ripe for consideration. Having considered the pleadings and filings, the applicable legal authorities, and all matters of record, the Court will grant summary judgment for the reasons explained below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Prince is serving a life sentence in TDCJ for a capital murder conviction in the 262nd District Court of Harris County, Case Number 892174. He was convicted on November 14, 2003, for a murder he committed on March 13, 1982 (Dkt. 11-7, at 28- 29).[1] On January 19, 2006, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals affirmed Prince's conviction and sentence. Prince v. State, 192 S.W.3d 49 (Tex. App.-Hou. [14th Dist.] 2006, pet. ref'd).

         Prince's habeas petition does not challenge his underlying conviction. Rather, Prince challenges TDCJ's decision that, because he is serving a life sentence, he will never be eligible for release on mandatory supervision. In 2018, Prince filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus challenging his ineligibility for early release. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the writ without written order on the trial court's findings (Dkt. 11-2). Prince's federal habeas petition, executed on July 26, 2018, also challenges his ineligibility for early release.[2]

         Prince claims that he should be released to mandatory supervision when his “good conduct time” and his “calendar time” adds up to 60 years (Dkt. 2, at 2). His argument relies on the 1977 version of Texas' mandatory supervision law, which was in effect when he committed the murder offense in 1982. Prince refers to the 1977 law as “Senate Bill 152” or the law from Texas' “65th Legislature.” He claims that, under the 1977 law, “his Life sentence equates to 60 years” (id.). In support, he presents a 2001 affidavit from Helen Copitka, a voting member of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles from 1976-83, who avers that when she was a board member “it was [her] understanding that persons serving life sentences, who were not granted parole, would automatically be released to Mandatory Supervision when their flat time and accrued good time equaled 60 years” (Dkt. 2-1, at 4). He also provides a portion of Senate Bill 152 and directs the Court's attention to § 15(b), which stated that death-sentenced inmates were not eligible for parole but that other prisoners were eligible “when their calendar time served plus good conduct time equals one-third of the maximum sentence imposed or 20 years, whichever is less” (id. at 2).[3]

         Prince calculates that, in 2021 or 2022, he “will accumulate the 60 years required for him to be released to mandatory supervision” (Dkt. 2, at 18).[4] He claims that he should be eligible for release at that point, and therefore brings this petition seeking “federal habeas corpus relief concerning his Constitutionally protected interest of Mandatory Supervision Release” (Dkt. 1, at 9).

         In 2014, this Court rejected similar arguments from Prince in a separate federal habeas petition that challenged a disciplinary conviction. See Memorandum and Order dated Feb. 21, 2014 (Dkt. 5 in Prince v. Davis, Civil Action No. 3:13-0049 (S.D. Tex.)), at 3. The Court denied Prince's petition for habeas relief because “Texas inmates serving a life sentence are not eligible for release under the Texas mandatory supervision statute and have no constitutionally protected interest in any loss of accrued good-time credits.” Id. (citing Arnold v. Cockrell, 306 F.3d 277 (5th Cir. 2002); Ex parte Franks, 71 S.W.3d 327 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001)).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the entry of summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Curtis v. Anthony, 710 F.3d 587, 594 (5th Cir. 2013). Once the movant presents a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show with significant probative evidence the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Hamilton v. Segue Software Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000). “A fact is ‘material' if its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law.” Id. “An issue is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. In deciding a summary judgment motion, the reviewing court must “construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Dillon v. Rogers, 596 F.3d 260, 266 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Petitioner proceeds pro se. Federal courts do not hold pro se habeas petitions “to the same stringent and rigorous standards as . . . pleadings filed by lawyers.” Hernandez v. Thaler, 630 F.3d 420, 426 (5th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “The filings of a federal habeas petitioner who is proceeding pro se are entitled to the benefit of liberal construction.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Prince's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 argues that his ineligibility for mandatory supervision violates his constitutional rights. He brings four claims:

(1) this Court should conduct a de novo review of Arnold v. Cockrell, 306 F.3d 277 (5th Cir. 2002), because the decision violates Prince's ...

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