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Brown v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 22, 2018

JAMES G. BROWN, Petitioner,
v.
G.R. JOHNSON, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          James G. Brown. Pro se Petitioner.

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner James G. Brown ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 1) The State filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 8) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner pled guilty to first degree unlawful sexual intercourse in March 1989. The Superior Court immediately sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. (D.I. 8 at 2) Since then, Petitioner has filed five unsuccessful motions for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion(s)"), [1] two unsuccessful federal habeas petitions, [2] one unsuccessful application for authorization to file a second or successive federal habeas petition, [3] three unsuccessful state petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, [4] one unsuccessful motion to correct an illegal sentence, [5] and two unsuccessful applications for release on parole.[6]

         On November 26, 2014, Petitioner filed an application for authorization file a successive habeas petition with the Third Circuit. In an Order dated January 9, 2015, the Third Circuit found that Petitioner did not require leave to raise the claims in his third federal habeas petition, but it indicated that the claims might not be cognizable. See In re Brown, No. 14-4587, Order (3d Cir. Jan. 9, 2015). The Third Circuit transferred Petitioner's Petition to the Court on January 9, 2015.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Petition asserts four grounds for relief: (1) the Superior court should not have accepted the State's untimely response to Petitioner's motion for correction of an illegal sentence; (2) the Superior Court should not have denied Petitioner's motion for correction of an illegal sentence for reasons not contained in the State's untimely response; (3) the Board of Parole's failure to hold a parole hearing until approximately three years after Petitioner became eligible for parole breached the terms of Petitioner's plea agreement; and (4) the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying Petitioner's state habeas petitions.

         A. Claims One, Two and Four: Not Cognizable on Federal Habeas Review

         A federal court may consider a habeas petition filed by a state prisoner only "on the ground that he is in custody of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Claims based on errors of state law are not cognizable on federal habeas review, and federal courts cannot re-examine state court determinations of state law issues. See Mullaney v. Wilbur, All U.S. 684, 691 (1975) ("State courts are the ultimate expositors of state law."); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (holding that claims based on errors of state law are not cognizable on habeas review). Allegations of error in state collateral proceedings, even when couched in terms of "Due Process, " are not cognizable on federal habeas review, because "the federal role in reviewing an application for habeas corpus is limited to evaluating what occurred in the state . . . proceeding that actually led to the petitioner's conviction." Hassine v. Zimmerman, 160 F.3d 941, 954 (3d Cir. 1998) ("[W]hat occurred in die petitioner's collateral proceeding does not enter in to the habeas calculation.").

         Claims One, Two, and Four challenge the Superior Court's decisions in Petitioner's collateral proceedings, and do not challenge what happened in his original criminal proceeding. Therefore, the Court will deny these three Claims for failing to assert a proper basis for federal habeas relief.

         B. Claim Three

         In Claim Three, Petitioner asserts that the Board of Parole's failure to provide him with a parole hearing until "well beyond the 20 year term" allegedly promised in the agreement violated the terms of the plea agreement he made with the State. (D.I. at 20) The following ...


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