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Evans v. Graves

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 12, 2017

AUGUSTUS HEBREW EVANS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE HENLEY T. GRAVES, et al., Defendants.

          Augustus Hebrew Evans, Jr., James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Augustus Hebrew Evans, Jr., an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] He appears pro se and has paid the filing fee. The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint (D.I. 4) and its amendment (D.I. 13) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).[2]

         BACKGROUND

         The Court takes judicial notice of the following, all of which is relevant to the instant Complaint. In 2007, Plaintiff was convicted of second degree assault; aggravated menacing, resisting arrest, and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony. See Evans v. State, 968 A.2d 491 (table), 2009 WL 367728, at *2-3 (Del. Feb. 13, 2009). He was sentenced as a habitual offender to seventy-nine years of incarceration at Level V, suspended after seventy-two years for a period of probation. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Plaintiffs convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Id.

         In June 2009, Plaintiff filed a Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief challenging his 2007 convictions and sentences. See State v. Evans, 2009 WL 2219275 (Del. Super. July 6, 2009). The Delaware Superior Court denied the motion, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the decision. See Evans v. State, 985 A.2d 390 (table), 2009 WL 3656085 (Del. Oct 7, 2009).

         In February 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. See Evans v. Phelps, 2012 WL 1134482 (D. Del. Apr. 2, 2012). The application was denied following a determination that the claims lacked merit. Id. at *14. Plaintiff appealed and, after the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit declined to issue a certificate of appealability, it terminated the appeal. See Evans v. Phelps, C.A. No. 12-2159 (3d Cir. Oct. 4, 2012). Plaintiff then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court which was denied on April 22, 2013. See Evans v. Phelps, __ U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 2007, 2013 WL 800350 (2013).

         On February 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief challenging his 2007 convictions and sentences, which was denied as procedurally barred and repetitive. See State v. Evans, 2013 WL 1090979, at *1 (Del. Super. Feb. 25, 2013). Plaintiff then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware to compel the Delaware Superior Court to rule on the merits of his postconviction motion rather than base the decision on Rule 61's procedural bars. See In re Evans, 2013 WL 1807871 (Del. Apr. 29, 2013). The Delaware Supreme Court denied the petition on April 29, 2013. Id. On October 10, 2013, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's dismissal of Plaintiffs second Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief. See Evans v. State, 2013 WL 5614265 (Del. Oct. 10, 2013).

         In July 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Delaware Superior Court against Judge Henley Graves ("Judge Graves") and Brendan O'Neill ("O'Neill"), both named defendants in the instant case, as well as other individuals. See Evans v. Graves, 2013 WL 5460177 (Del. Super. Sept. 30, 2013). Plaintiff sued Graves and O'Neill in their official and individual capacities and asserted they violated his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff attempted to advance claims of "intentional conspiracy of the collective defendants and state agencies to advance a continued abuse and violation of civil rights of a selective class of people, " with all claims related to the denial of Plaintiff's second motion for postconviction relief. Id. at *3. The complaint also alleged a continuing conspiracy "'for the purpose of directly depriving Negroes and similarly situated person as Plaintiff equal protections of the law and exercise of substantial constitutional rights.'" Id. The Superior Court dismissed the complaint finding each assertion was frivolous and/or failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Id. at *6.

         On December 6, 2013, the Superior Court denied Plaintiff's motion for a new trial. See In re Evans, 91 A.3d 561 (table), 2014 WL 1779361, n.4 (Del. May 1, 2014). Plaintiff filed a third motion for postconviction relief in the Delaware Superior Court and, while it remained pending, filed a petition for writ of mandamus before the Delaware Supreme Court to direct the Superior Court to consider motions he had filed under Rules 33 and 61. See In re Evans, 2014 WL 1779361, at *1 (Del. May 1, 2014). The Delaware Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus on May 1, 2014, and noted that Plaintiffs excessive, frivolous filings were abusive, placed an undue burden on the court system, and directed the Clerk of Court not to grant any future in forma pauperis motions that Plaintiff filed without first submitting the motion for review. Id.

         On April 23, 2014, the Superior Court denied Plaintiffs third Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief. See Evans v. State, 100 A.3d 1021 (table), 2014 WL 4104785 (Del. Aug. 19, 2014). On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal, agreeing with the Superior Court's conclusion that Plaintiffs "effort to revisit his [claims] by repackaging same under a claim of judicial bias and/or incompetence must fail, " and concluded that Plaintiffs derivative claim of "judicial bias/abuse of discretion" was not supported by the record and without merit. Id. at *2. Plaintiff filed a fourth motion for postconviction relief and the Superior Court summarily dismissed the motion on October 31, 2014. Evans v. State, 108 A.3d 1224 (table), 2015 WL 214057 (Del. Jan. 14, 2015). On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and found that the Superior Court did not err in summarily dismissing Plaintiffs fourth motion for postconviction relief. Id. at *2. Plaintiff was warned that if he continued to file appeals from the denial of repetitive and meritless claims, he risked being enjoined from filing appeals without first seeking leave of court. Id.

         In this Court in March 2015, Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis with respect to his 2007 convictions. See Evans v. Pierce, 201 F.Supp.3d 560, 562 (D. Del. 2016). In April 2015, Plaintiff filed an application in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit requesting authorization to file a second or successive habeas application, which was denied for Plaintiffs failure to satisfy the requirements for obtaining the authorization. See id.; see also In re Evans, C.A. No. 15-1726 (3d Cir. Apr. 9, 2015).

         On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Rule 60(b)(6) motion for reconsideration, seeking relief from the Third Circuit's refusal to permit him to file a second or successive habeas application, and/or seeking relief from the denial of his first § 2254 application, which he had filed in 2012. See Evans v. Pierce, 201 F.Supp.3d at 562. On December 22, 2015, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs petition for a writ of error coram nobis for lack of jurisdiction, and dismissed the Rule 60(b) motion for lack of jurisdiction because it constituted an unauthorized second or successive habeas application. See Id. Plaintiff's subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied on August 17, 2016. Id. On appeal, the ruling was summarily affirmed. See Evans v. Warden, C.A. No. 16-3542 (3d Cir. Nov. 10, 2016).

         In the meantime, Plaintiff filed a fifth Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief in the Superior Court. Evans v. State, 128 A.3d 994 (table), 2015 WL 7758307 (Del. Dec. 1, 2015). In its denial, the Superior Court informed Plaintiff that it would not accept any future Rule 61 motions unless he first sought, and received, the trial court's permission to file. Id. at *1. Plaintiff appealed and then voluntarily dismissed the appeal.

         Next, he sought leave to file a sixth Rule 61 motion and, when leave was denied by the Superior Court, Plaintiff filed an appeal with the Delaware Supreme Court. Id. at *2. On December 1, 2015, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Plaintiffs request finding no error of law or abuse of discretion and noting that Plaintiff had unsuccessfully pursued postconviction relief under Rule 61 five different times and he refuses to accept the Superior Court's rulings on his motions. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded that Plaintiff's untimely, repetitive, and frivolous filings constituted an abuse of the judicial process and directed the Clerk of Court to refuse any future filing from Plaintiff related to his criminal convictions and sentences unless the filing is accompanied by the required filing fee or a completed motion to proceed in forma pauperis with a sworn affidavit containing the certifications required by 10 Del. C. § 8803(e) and that motion is first granted by the Supreme Court. Id.

         On February 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking relief from his criminal convictions. See Matter of Evans, 135 A.3d 762 (table), 2016 WL 1221966 (Del. Mar. 23, 2016). On March 23, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court ordered the petition stricken and dismissed the matter after Plaintiff failed to pay the filing fee or submit a request to proceed in forma pauperis as required in the Delaware Supreme Court's December 1, 2015 order. Id. at *1.

         On March 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a sixth motion for postconviction relief in the Superior Court. (D.I. 4-1 at p.87). The Superior Court adopted and incorporated its May 26, 2015 ruling of the fifth motion for postconviction relief and advised Plaintiff that the sixth motion would not be considered or acted upon as it merely repeated previous complaints that had been adjudicated several times. (Id.). Plaintiffs appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court was dismissed when he did not submit the filing fee or a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and then failed to respond to a show cause order. See Evans v. State, 135 A.3d 762 (table), 2016 WL 2585786 (Del. Apr. 1, 2016).

         At some point, Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and it was denied by the Superior Court. See Evans v. State, 150 A.3d 1193 (table), 2016 WL 6459580 (Del. Oct. 31, 2016). The Superior Court held that Plaintiff's writ of habeas corpus sought to challenge his underlying convictions and sentences by asserting that the trial judge was biased. Id. at *1. Plaintiff appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court issued a notice for Plaintiff to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failing to state a claim. Id. In response, Plaintiff contended that a structural error exists in his criminal case due to judge bias, that the issue had never been adjudicated, and that a writ was the only means to have the issue resolved. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court found the appeal frivolous and dismissed it on October 31, 2016. It noted there was no basis for a writ of habeas corpus and that Plaintiffs contention that his claim of judicial bias had never been adjudicated was simply incorrect. Id.

         On November 16, 2016, the Superior Court denied Plaintiff's applications attacking his conviction. (D.I. 13-1 at p.7). On November 29, 2016, the Superior Court denied several filings wherein Plaintiff continue to attack his conviction. Id. The Order states, "[r]egardless of whatever labels you choose to put on your motions, they are all repetitive, previously adjudicated, too late, and frivolous." Id. at p.8. Plaintiff next filed a petition for a writ of mandamus claiming that he was entitled to the disqualification of the Superior Court judge assigned to his criminal matter (i.e., Judge Graves). See Matter of Evans, 157 A.3d 142 (table), 2017 WL 568348 (Feb. 6, 2017). On February 6, 2017, the Delaware Supreme Court dismissed the petition, stating that the "issue has been previously litigated against him." Id. at *1. On April 6, 2017, the Supreme Court received documents from Plaintiff, entitled "Rule 60(b) Motion to Reopen Case" and "Rule 60(b) Motion Appendice." (D.I. 13-1 at p.6). Plaintiff was advised that the Supreme Court no longer had jurisdiction to address the matter raised in the documents, it would take no further action with respect to the documents, and that it would no longer accept any filings captioned in the matter. Id.

         In the meantime, Plaintiff commenced this action on January 19, 2017 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants denied him due process and the right to equal protection of rules, statutes, laws and constitutions. Plaintiff contends that he has demonstrated he is in prison under an illegal conviction and sentence, and alleges that Defendants are individually liable, that Defendants conspired to uphold ...


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