United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
BRUCE D. JOHNSON-EL, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
JUDGE THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
D. Johnson-El, a pro se prisoner, filed a Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus [ECF No. 1] attempting to challenge
his conviction and 20-year sentence for rape in Cass Superior
Court on March 23, 2006. The Respondent argues that the
Habeas Corpus Petition must be dismissed because it is
untimely, the claims are procedurally defaulted, and they are
without merit. Johnson-El has not filed any reply.
deciding the Petition, the Court must presume that the facts
set forth by the state courts are correct. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). It is Johnson-El’s burden to rebut this
presumption with clear and convincing evidence. Id.
On direct appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals set forth the
facts underlying this case as follows:
On the night of April 16, 2003, Johnson-El visited the home
of Pamela Putnam in Logansport. Johnson-El had known Putnam
since childhood and regularly visited Putnam at her home.
Putnam’s children, eighteen-year-old A.P. and
twenty-one-year-old Shaun, also lived at the residence. When
Johnson-El arrived at Putnam’s home, Putnam was in her
bedroom and A.P. was watching television in the living room.
Johnson-El sat next to A.P. on the couch and A.P. noticed
that Johnson-El smelled of alcohol and that his speech was
slurred. Shaun arrived home a short time later, and
Johnson-El and Shaun decided to walk to Johnson-El’s
home to obtain alcohol, approximately three blocks away.
After they left, A.P. went to her bedroom to sleep.
Johnson-El and Shaun returned to Putnam’s home with a
few beers and a bottle of whiskey, consumed some of the
alcohol, and fell asleep watching television.
During the night, A.P. awoke to discover Johnson-El sitting
on the edge of her bed. A.P. asked Johnson-El why he was in
her room and then told him to leave. Johnson-El left
A.P.’s bedroom, closing the door behind him. A.P. fell
asleep but was subsequently awakened by a man she recognized
as Johnson-El lying behind her and applying pressure to her
neck and hips. A.P. realized that the shorts she was wearing
had been pulled down and that Johnson-El was touching her
neck, lower back, and vagina while holding her wrists
together in front of her. A.P. felt Johnson-El put his penis
into her vagina and move slowly. A.P. began to struggle,
freed her left arm, pushed Johnson-El, and told him
“no” and “to stop.” Tr. p. 25.
Johnson-El began to move faster as A.P. struggled. Johnson-El
eventually stopped, stood up, told A.P. not to tell anyone,
and left her bedroom.
The next morning, Putnam found Johnson-El on the couch and he
told her that he had done “something that he was
ashamed of . . . .” Id. at 60. A.P. remained
in her bedroom until Putnam and Johnson-El left the house.
A.P. answered the phone when it rang and Johnson-El asked her
“if [she] was okay” and reiterated that this was
“between me and you.” Id. at 28. A.P.
hung up the phone, called Putnam at work, and asked that she
When Putnam returned home, A.P. told her mother that
Johnson-El had raped her. While Putnam was talking with A.P.,
Johnson-El called the house again. Putnam answered the phone
and told Johnson-El that she knew what he had done and that
she was going to call the police and take A.P. to the
hospital. After she hung up the phone, Putnam called the
police and brought A.P. to the emergency room in a Logansport
hospital. At the hospital, a nurse performed a sexual assault
examination on A.P. A.P. complained of a sore vaginal area
and lower back pain. The nurse noticed an abrasion on
On April 23, 2003, the State charged Johnson-El with class B
felony rape. On June 4, 2004, the State filed an additional
count of class B felony rape. A bench trial was held on March
23, 2006, and Johnson-El moved for a directed verdict after
the State presented its evidence. The trial court granted
Johnson-El’s motion as to Count II but denied the
motion as to Count I. After the remainder of the bench trial,
the trial court found Johnson-El guilty of rape. Following
sentencing hearings on April 17, 2006, and May 1, 2006, the
trial court sentenced Johnson-El to twenty years
Johnson-El v. State, No. 09A02-0605-CR-424, slip op.
at *2–4 (Ind. Ct. App. Jan. 10, 2007).
direct appeal, Johnson-El challenged the sentence. [ECF No.
11-4.] The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence on
January 10, 2007, and Johnson-El did not seek transfer to the
Indiana Supreme Court. [ECF Nos. 11-3, 11-7.]
filed a Petition for post-conviction relief and a Motion for
a change of judge on January 28, 2009:
In his petition, Johnson-El argued that the assistance of his
trial and appellate counsel had been ineffective and that the
trial court had improperly enhanced his sentence. In his
motion for a change of judge, he requested a new judge based
on his belief that the judge who had presided over his trial
was biased against him. Specifically, he claimed that the
trial judge’s actions at trial “consisted of
voice inflections, facial expressions, and glances, and
making reference to this case as a file # 13 case.”
Based on this “demeanor throughout trial,”
Johnson-El argued that his trial judge was partial to the
State and could not make an objective assessment of the
arguments he raised in his petition for post-conviction
relief. In response to Johnson-El’s petition and
motion, on February 3, 2009, the State filed an answer in
which it requested disposition without a hearing because
Johnson-El’s arguments did not contain genuine issues
of material fact. That same day, the post-conviction court
denied Johnson-El’s change of judge motion without a
Subsequently, on February 17, 2011, Johnson-El, pro
se, filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief
and a second motion for change of judge. In his amended
petition, Johnson-El alleged that he was entitled to a new
trial based on newly discovered evidence that the victim of
his rape had allegedly admitted to her cousin that Johnson-El
had not raped her. In his second motion for a change of
judge, Johnson-El again argued that his trial judge was
prejudiced against him. He stated that:
I believe the [trial judge] has a personal bias or prejudice
against me because my conviction rests upon the sole
credibility and testimony of the alleged victim in this case;
[a]nd over my own credibility and testimony, he favored a
conviction, via, marrying the alleged victim’s
testimony; and thus, has evinced in this case a bias against
me so strong as to affect his objectivity in assessing the
charges and claims now made pending before the court in my
instant [a]mended [p]etition for [p]ost-[c]onviction [r]elief
that would warrant his disqualification from considering this
matter. Further, it is my firm belief that the maxium [sic]
sentence of [twenty (20)] years he has given me convinces me
that he holds such a bias against me.
Also on February 17, 2011, the post-conviction court denied
Johnson-El’s second motion for a change of judge,
finding that it did not comply with Indiana Post-Conviction
On March 19, 2013, the post-conviction court held a hearing
and dismissed Johnson-El’s amended petition for
post-conviction relief pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 41(E).
On April 8, 2013, Johnson-El filed a motion to correct error
disputing both the post-conviction court’s denial of
his motion for a change of judge and his petition for
post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court held a
hearing on the motion to correct error on July 1, 2013, and
denied the motion that same day.
Johnson-El v. State, No. 09A02-1302-PC-270, slip op.
at *2–4 (Ind. Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2014) (internal
citations and footnotes omitted).
appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, Johnson-El
argued that the post-conviction court improperly denied his
Motion for a change of judge and that the dismissal of his
post-conviction Petition on procedural grounds under Trial
Rule 41(E) was improper. The Indiana Court of Appeals
affirmed the post-conviction court’s rulings. [ECF No.
11-10.] Johnson-El reiterated his claims on transfer, but the
Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer on October 23, 2014. On
March 16, 2015, Johnson-El filed his Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus here, which was Dated: March 10, 2015.
Petition must be dismissed for a number of reasons. The
Respondent argues that Johnson-El’s Petition should be
dismissed because it is untimely, the claims are procedurally
defaulted, and the claims ...