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Ridley v. Hill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 14, 2017

DARREN RIDLEY, Petitioner,


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Court

         Once convicted and after exhaustion or waiver of any right to appeal, a defendant is presumed to stand “fairly and finally convicted.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982). For the reasons explained in this Entry, the effort Darren Ridley to show otherwise fails. His petition for a writ of habeas corpus will therefore be denied. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue. This disposition is compelled by the following facts and circumstances:

         1. Petitioner Ridley is in the closing months of serving a federal sentence and upon its completion will be called upon to serve a lengthy sentence imposed by the Marion Superior Court. The current Indiana Attorney General is therefore substituted as to the respondent as shown in the caption of this Entry.

         2. Ridley seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). “In § 2254 proceedings, federal courts are foreclosed from fact-finding. We therefore defer to the findings of the [state] court, which have not been challenged and are presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.” Jones v. Butler, 778 F.3d 575, 578 (7th Cir. 2015)(citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) and Harris v. Thompson, 698 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2012)). A state court's factual finding is unreasonable only if it “ignores the clear and convincing weight of the evidence.” Taylor v. Grounds, 721 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         3. Ridley has not shown the factual findings of the Indiana state courts to be unreasonable. The Court therefore looks to the summary of the evidence made in the course of his direct appeal:

[Ridley and his co-defendants], members of a gang, planned to kill Stacey Reed in retaliation for Reed's interference in the gang's drug operations. The defendants amassed a stockpile of assault rifles, ventured to the apartment complex where they believed they would find Reed, and, standing shoulder to shoulder, blasted a hail of gunfire at a wall of the complex. A teenager was killed and a child was permanently injured.

Ridley v. State, 690 N.E.2d 177, 179 (Ind. 1997). Other details of the offenses are set forth in the appeal of his co-defendants in Williams v. State, 690 N.E.2d 162 (Ind. 1997).

         4. Ridley was convicted at trial of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and attempted murder. His appeal resulted in the attempted murder conviction being vacated and the case being remanded for resentencing. The trial court modified Ridley's sentence to 110 years on June 29, 2000.

         5. Ridley filed an action for post-conviction relief on January 21, 2002. The trial court's denial of that petition was affirmed in Ridley v. State, 910 N.E.2d 862 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009). No petition to transfer was filed with the Indiana Supreme Court.

         6. On November 15, 2013, Ridley filed a notice of appeal in the trial court in which he purported to be appealing that court's order of October 29, 2013. That appeal was docketed with the Indiana Court of Appeals but was dismissed for procedural reasons on April 24, 2014. Ridley's motion to rescind that dismissal was denied on June 23, 2014. A petition to transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court was filed on September 23, 2014 and was denied on January 6, 2015.

         7. The filing of this action followed. Ridley's habeas petition was Dated: either November 2, 2015 or December 30, 2015. It is considered to have been “filed” on the date it was signed and delivered to prison authorities for mailing to the Court.

         8. "[W]hen examining a habeas corpus petition, the first duty of a district court . . . is to examine the procedural status of the cause of action." United States ex rel. Simmons v. Gramley, 915 F.2d 1128, 1132 (7th Cir. 1990).

Our system affords a defendant convicted in state court numerous opportunities to challenge the constitutionality of his conviction. He may raise constitutional claims on direct appeal, in postconviction proceedings available under state law, and in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (1994 ed. and Supp. V). See generally 1 J. Liebman & R. Hertz, Federal Habeas Corpus Practice and Procedure § 5.1.a (3d ed. 1998). These vehicles for review, however, are not available indefinitely and without limitation. Procedural barriers, such as statutes of limitations and rules concerning procedural default and exhaustion of remedies, operate to limit access to review on the merits of a constitutional claim. See, e.g., United States v. Olano,507 U.S. 725, 731, 113 S.Ct. 1770, 123 L.Ed.2d 508 (1993) (“‘No procedural principle is more familiar to this Court than that a constitutional right . . . may be forfeited in ...

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