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Spurlock v. Zatecky

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

March 12, 2019

COREY L. SPURLOCK, Petitioner,
v.
DUSHAN ZATECKY, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge

         Petitioner Corey Spurlock brings the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Indiana convictions for murder and robbery. For the reasons explained below, his habeas petition is denied and a certificate of appealability will not issue.

         I. Background

         In March 2003, a jury found Mr. Spurlock guilty of four counts of murder, two counts of conspiracy to commit robbery, and two counts of robbery. He received an aggregate sentence of seventy-five years' imprisonment. The Indiana Court of Appeal affirmed his convictions on direct appeal.

         As explained by the Indiana Court of Appeals, Mr. Spurlock obtained post-conviction relief in state court and was resentenced:

In March 2005, Spurlock filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the trial court dismissed without prejudice on September 8, 2008, for failure to prosecute. In October 2014, Spurlock again filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was later amended. Following a hearing and the filing of proposed findings by the parties, the trial court denied Spurlock's petition. Spurlock appealed, and, in February 2017, a panel of this Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the post-conviction court. See Spurlock v. State, No. 49A05-1609-PC- 1976 (Ind.Ct.App. Feb. 17, 2017). It was determined that Spurlock's appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a sentencing error, specifically that the bodily injury stemming from Spurlock's murder convictions was used also as the basis for elevating his conspiracy convictions to Class A felonies. See id., slip op. at 18. Consequently, the case was remanded to the trial court for entry of judgment of conviction on the conspiracy counts to be reduced from Class A felonies to Class B felonies and for resentencing.
On remand, the trial court resentenced Spurlock in July 2017 to a total of sixty-five years. He received forty-five years for each of the four murders and ten years for one of the conspiracy counts, all to be served concurrently. In addition, the trial court sentenced him to twenty years on the second conspiracy count, to be served consecutively to the other counts.

Spurlock v. State, 106 N.E.3d 1046, 1049 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018) (“Spurlock III”).

         Mr. Spurlock appealed his sentence. He presented the following claim to the Indiana Court of Appeals:

The trial court erred in resentencing him because his sentence does not conform to the dictates of Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). Blakely applies and further explains the rule previously set forth in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), prohibiting the reliance on facts not found by a jury or admitted by the defendant to enhance a sentence above the presumptive, with the exception of criminal history.

Spurlock III, 106 N.E.3d at 1049. The Indiana Court of Appeals noted that Mr. Spurlock did not make a Blakely objection at his resentencing hearing, and thus the only way he could avoid forfeiting this claim is by arguing that the Blakely error amounted to fundamental error.

         The Indiana Court of Appeals explained the fundamental errors doctrine as follows: “[t]he fundamental error doctrine is extremely narrow and applies only when the error amounts to a blatant violation of basic principles, the harm or potential for harm is substantial, and the resulting error denies the defendant fundamental due process. Thus, this doctrine is available only in egregious circumstances.” Id. at 1050 (citations omitted). After analyzing the Blakely claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that there was no “fundamental error.” Id. at 1052.

         II. Discussion

         Mr. Spurlock's sole claim in his habeas petition is the Blakely claim he raised to the Indiana Court of Appeals in Spurlock III. The respondent moves to dismiss Mr. Spurlock's habeas petition on the ground that this claim is ...


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