United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS,
DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, SENIOR JUDGE
Menes Ankh El, formerly known as Wendell Brown, an inmate in
the Indiana Department of Correction, petitions for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He
challenges his conviction entered by the Marion County
Superior Court, case number 49G04-1502-F5-003976, for
attempted fraud on a financial institution. For the reasons
explained below, the petition is denied. In
addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability
should not issue.
State Court Proceedings
court review of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
centers on the state court proceedings and presumes all
factual findings of the state court to be correct, absent
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See
Daniels v. Knight, 476 F.3d 426, 434 (7th Cir. 2007). In
Mr. Ankh El's state direct appeal, the Indiana Court of
Appeals recited the factual background of the case:
In December 2014, Brown purchased a car from a car dealership
in Marion County with a cashier's check. Shortly
thereafter, a bank employee informed the car dealership that
Brown's check was not valid. Based upon this incident,
the State charged Brown with attempted fraud on a financial
institution, a Level 5 felony; two counts of forgery, both
Level 6 felonies; and auto theft, a Level 6 felony.
A bench trial was held on May 26, 2015, and Brown was found
guilty as charged. At sentencing, the trial court entered
judgment of conviction only on the offense of attempted fraud
on a financial institution, sentenced Brown to five years,
and ordered the sentence to run consecutively to his
sentences in other causes.
Dkt. 17-6 (Indiana Court of Appeals Memorandum Decision, Jun.
Ankh El raised four issues in his direct appeal. First, he
asserted the trial court lacked jurisdiction because, among
other things, he is an “Aboriginal and Indigenous
Moorish American National” and therefore not a citizen
of the United States nor Indiana. Second, he asserted the
state court charging information was defective because it did
not identify to whom he presented the check. Third, he
asserted that the evidence was insufficient to support his
conviction. Fourth, he asserted that the trial court
committed a number of fundamental errors in his trial,
including the failure to require the prosecution to prove its
or the trial court's jurisdiction, and the failure of the
trial court to take judicial notice of its lack of
jurisdiction. Mr. Ankh El also asserted there were
evidentiary errors, the trial judge was not impartial, and
the trial court interfered with his pro se defense of his
case. The state appellate court discussed and rejected each
claim, affirming Mr. Ankh El's conviction. Dkt. 17-6, p.
Ankh El sought transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court, raising
the first three issues, but abandoning the fourth issue (the
trial court's alleged fundamental errors). Transfer was
denied. Brown v. State, 95 N.E.3d 1292 (Ind. 2018).
Ankh El did not pursue state post-conviction relief, but
instead filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas
corpus. Respondent acknowledges that Mr. Ankh El has
completed direct review in state court and has no other state
remedies available. He also argues that Mr. Ankh El's
claims are either not cognizable federal habeas corpus claims
or meritless, and the petition should be denied. Mr. Ankh has
replied to respondent's return and contends he is
entitled to relief.
habeas corpus is a remedy for the violation of federal
constitutional claims. A writ of habeas corpus may only issue
if the petitioner is “in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). In Schmidt v. Foster, 911
F.3d 469, 476-477 (7th Cir. 2018) (en banc), the now-familiar
standard of review for habeas cases was recited:
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 (AEDPA), a federal court may grant habeas relief after a
state-court adjudication on the merits only when that
decision (1) ‘was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,
as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;'
or (2) ‘was based on an unreasonable determination of
the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State
court proceeding.' 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(1),
courts focus on whether the last reasoned state court opinion
on the merits of a petitioner's claims unreasonably
applied clearly established Supreme Court precedent.
Schmidt, 911 F.3d at 477 (citing Wilson v.
Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018)); see also
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).
the claims a state inmate makes must have been exhausted in
the state courts before a federal court may consider them.
“‘Inherent in the habeas petitioner's
obligation to exhaust his state court remedies before seeking
relief in habeas corpus, is the duty to fairly present his
federal claims to the state courts.'” King v.
Pfister, 834 F.3d 808, 815 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025 (7th Cir.
2004) (in turn citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A)). To
meet this requirement, a petitioner “must raise the
issue at each and every level in the state court system,
including levels at which review is discretionary rather than
mandatory.” Id. at 1025-26. “A federal
court will not hear a state prisoner's habeas claim
unless the prisoner has first exhausted his state remedies by
presenting the claim to the state courts for one full round
of review.” Davila v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 2058,
the only claims Mr. Ankh El has exhausted are the three that
he presented to the Indiana Supreme Court in his petition to
transfer. All other claims are ...