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Johnson v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 18, 2017

JOHN C. JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          John C, Johnson. Pro se petitioner.

          Gregory E. Smith, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sleeet, District Judge

         Pending before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and an amended petition filed by petitioner John Johnson ("Johnson"). (D.I. 1; D.I. 11) The State filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 19) For the following reasons, the court will deny the petition as time-barred by the one-year limitations period prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Aggravated Menacing Conviction

         In September 1997, Johnson was indicted and charged with aggravated menacing, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF"), second degree assault, and first degree reckless endangering. (D.I. 19 at 2) On March 23, 1998, he pled guilty to aggravated menacing, in exchange for which the State dismissed the balance of the indictment. Id. Johnson was seventeen years old when he committed the offenses, but he was eighteen years old when he was indicted and pled guilty. (D.I. 21 at 267) The Superior Court sentenced him to twenty four months at Level V imprisonment, suspended for twenty four months at Level III probation. (D.I. 19 at 2)

         In June 1998, the Superior Court found that Johnson had violated his probation ("VOP") and sentenced him to twenty four months at Level V, suspended for twenty four months at Level IV home confinement, which, in turn, was suspended after six months for eighteen months at Level III. (D.I. 19 at 2) In December 1999, the Superior Court found that Johnson had committed a second VOP and sentenced him to one year at Level V. Id.

         In July 2010, Johnson filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, which the Delaware Supreme Court dismissed on August 31, 2010. (D.I. 21 at 295); see In re Johnson, 3 A.3d 1097 (Table), 2010 WL 3420371 (Del. Aug. 31, 2010). On February 6, 2013, Johnson filed a motion for correction of sentence, which the Superior Court denied on February 22, 2013. (D.I. 19 at 2) On March 7, 2013, Johnson filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). Id. The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion on June 17, 2013, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on May 28, 2014. See Johnson v. State, 93 A.3d 654 (Table), 2014 WL 2463047 (Del. May 28, 2014).

         B. Murder/PFDCF Conviction

         In October 1999, Johnson was indicted and charged with first degree murder, PFDCF, and possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited. (D.I. 19 at 3) He pled guilty to PFDCF and the lesser included offense of second degree murder on May 8, 2001, and he was sentenced on July 12, 2001 as follows: for the second degree murder conviction, twenty years at Level V, suspended after seventeen years for decreasing levels of supervision, and for the PFDCF conviction, ten years at Level V. Id.

         On May 9, 2008, Johnson filed a Rule 61 motion, which the Superior Court denied on March 31, 2009. (D.I. 19 at 3) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on September 4, 2008. See State v. Johnson, 2009 WL 866180 (Del. Super. Ct. Mar. 31, 2009); Johnson v. State, 979 A.2d 1111 (Table), 2009 WL 2860974 (Del. Sept. 4, 2009).

         Johnson filed a second Rule 61 motion on March 18, 2013, which the Superior Court denied on January 17, 2014. See State v. Johnson, 2014 WL 595436 (Del. Super. Ct. Jan. 17, 2014). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on March 6, 2014. See Johnson v. State, 86 A.3d 1119 (Table), 2014 WL 982395 (Del. Mar. 6, 2014).

         Johnson filed a habeas petition in this court in January 2015, and then he filed an amended petition in August 2015. Together, these filings (hereinafter referred to as "petition") present two general arguments: (1) Johnson was a juvenile when he committed the aggravated menacing offense leading to his 1998 conviction, demonstrating that his 1998 aggravated menacing conviction was illegal because the Superior Court does not have jurisdiction over juveniles cases (D.I. 1); and (2) the sentence for his 2001 PFDCF conviction should be vacated because it was improperly "enhanced" on the basis of the illegal 1998 aggravated menacing conviction (D.I. 11). More specifically, the petition asserts the following six claims: (1) the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction over the aggravated menacing case because Johnson was a juvenile when he committed the offense;[2] (2) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance by allowing the Superior Court to preside over his aggravated menacing case; (3) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance during the aggravated menacing case by failing to subject the State's case to adversarial testing; (4) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance during the plea negotiations in his murder case by failing to seek a decision on the motion to strike the death penalty as a potential sentence and by failing to inform Johnson that his 1998 aggravated menacing conviction could cause him to be classified as a habitual offender and/or cause the sentence for his murder conviction to be "enhanced";[3] (5) he would not have entered a guilty plea in his murder case if he knew that the death penalty was not a possibility and that there was a possibility he could be classified as a habitual offender; and (6) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance during sentencing for Johnson's 2001 murder/PFDCF convictions by failing to challenge the habitual offender classification. (D.I. 1; D.I. 11)

         The State filed an answer in opposition, alleging that the petition should be denied as time-barred or, alternatively, as procedurally barred. (D.I. 19)

         II. ONE YEAR ...


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