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Murray v. Warden, Ellsworth Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 17, 2017




         Before the Court is Petitioner Randall Murray's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 1) seeking post-conviction relief. For the following reasons, Murray's petition is denied.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Murray is currently serving concurrent sentences of life and 15 years to life at Ellsworth Correctional Facility. In 1983, Murray was convicted in Wyandotte County, Kansas of first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. Prior to trial, Murray's counsel filed a motion to determine competency under K.S.A. § 22-3302(1). The district judge found "good cause" to grant the motion and ordered Dr. William Reese to evaluate Murray's ability to stand trial. Dr. Reese examined Murray and wrote in his report that Murray was competent; however, the record does not show the trial court held the required post-examination competency hearing. Nevertheless, the criminal case proceeded to trial where the jury convicted Murray. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Murray's conviction and sentence on direct appeal.

         Over the next couple decades, Murray filed a series of habeas corpus motions under K.S.A. § 60-1507 in state court. Murray filed his first § 60-1507 motion in the mid-1980s and raised an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that was rejected by the district judge in an unpublished opinion. In 2003, Murray filed a second § 60-1507, which was likewise rejected. In 2005, more than twenty years after his conviction, Murray filed a third § 60-1507 motion. This motion was the first time Murray mentioned his competency at trial, and the issue was only raised in a peripheral manner. Once again, the district court dismissed Murray's claim, the Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Kansas Supreme Court denied review.

         Then, in August 2008, Murray filed a motion with this Court for the first time, seeking federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Murray sought relief on the basis of the state court's failure to hold a competency hearing. However, because Murray never directly raised the competency issue in any of his habeas motions in state court, the Court dismissed Murray's petition without prejudice for failing to exhaust available state court remedies.[1]

         Murray then returned to state court where he filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to K.S.A. § 22-3504(1). Murray's motion was based on the trial judge's failure to hold a competency hearing. The district court summarily dismissed the motion-however, on appeal the Kansas Supreme Court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine if Murray did or did not receive the post-examination competency hearing.

         Upon remand, the state trial court concluded: "(1) a competency hearing had not been conducted; (2) a retrospective competency hearing was feasible; and (3) Murray had been competent when tried and convicted."[2] The court found Murray to be competent relying largely on Dr. Reese's written record from his examination of Murray. Once again, Murray appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. He argued the district court exceeded the Kansas Supreme Court's instructions by conducting a retrospective competency hearing and, in the alternative, that the district court incorrectly determined a retrospective competency hearing was feasible.

         The Supreme Court rejected both of Murray's arguments and upheld the conviction. The Supreme Court first held that the district court did not exceed the instructions on remand. Additionally, the Supreme Court held "the district court did not err in determining the retrospective competency hearing could rectify the procedural due process error in Murray's underlying case."[3]

         Having exhausted his available state court remedies, Murray filed a second § 2254 petition with this Court. Pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, this Court issued a screening order on October 31, 2016.[4] This Court held that Murray's § 2254 petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which contains a one-year statute of limitations.[5] For criminal convictions that occurred prior to the AEDPA's enactment-which is the case here-the one-year limitations period begins to run when the AEDPA went into effect, which was April 24, 1996.[6]

         This Court held that Murray is not entitled to statutory tolling and that "it plainly appears" Murray's § 2254 claim is barred by the statute of limitations. Nevertheless, this Court ordered the parties to answer special questions before ruling on Murray's petition, including whether the statute of limitations should have a later start date due to newly discovered evidence or whether the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled.[7]

         II. Discussion

         A. Evidentiary Hearing

         Murray requested an evidentiary hearing with the Court. However, "an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary if the claim can be resolved on the record."[8] In this case, Murray's claims can be resolved based on the state records, so an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary.

         B. Statute of Limitations

         The Court considers whether Murray's § 2254 petition is timely. As this Court previously stated, Murray's § 2254 petition is barred by the statute of limitations unless the start date for the statute of limitations can be postponed or equitably tolled. Under 28 U.S.C. § ...

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