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Rodgers v. Pfister

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 23, 2013

JAMES E. RODGERS, Petitioner,
v.
RANDY PFISTER, Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center, Respondent.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

This cause comes before the Court on Petitioner James E. Rodger's Motion for Relief From Judgment (d/e 34). Because Petitioner has not shown extraordinary circumstances warranting relief from judgment, the Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

In June 1996, following a bench trial, Petitioner was found guilty of first degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death and sentenced to natural life in prison. The charges stemmed from the 1995 murder of Melissa Osman. Osman was stabbed multiple times. Christopher Connery was also convicted of the murder after a separate trial. Petitioner eventually made statements to the police admitting he witnessed the murder by Connery but denied participating in it.

Petitioner filed a direct appeal and various state court post-conviction proceedings and appeals. See People v. Rodgers, No. 3-96-0765 (November 19, 1997) (direct appeal); People v. Rodgers, 177 Ill.2d 582 (April 1, 1998) (Table) (denying PLA); People v. Rodgers, Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439 (March 29, 2001) (dismissing the postconviction petition); People v. Rodgers, No. 3-01-0314 (October 29, 2003) (affirming dismissal of the postconviction petition); People v. Rodgers, 207 Ill.2d 624 (January 28, 2004) (Table) (denying PLA); People v. Rodgers, Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439 (denying Petitioner leave to file a second postconviction petition); People v. Rodgers, Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439 (March 17, 2008) (denying Petitioner leave to file a third postconviction petition); People v. Rodgers, No. 3-08-0302 (March 8, 2010) (affirming denial of leave to file a third postconviction petition); People v. Rodgers , 237 Ill.2d 582 (September 29, 2010) (Table) (denying PLA).

On May 3, 2011, Petitioner filed his Petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court. On July 5, 2011, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss Petitioner's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus as Untimely. As is relevant to the Motion for Relief From Judgment, Petitioner asserted that the one-year statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. §2244(d) did not bar his Petition because he is actually innocent.

On August 24, 2011, this Court granted the Motion to Dismiss and dismissed the Petition as untimely under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). See Opinion (d/e 20). In particular, this Court noted that the Seventh Circuit held that actual innocence cannot cure an untimely petition. Id., citing Dixon v. Gaetz, 2010 WL 3199692, at *2 (N.D. Ill. August 12, 2010) and Escamilla v. Jungwirth , 426 F.3d 868, 871 (7th Cir. 2005). This Court and the Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner a certificate of appealability. See Opinion (d/e 20); Mandate(d/e 32). On October 1, 2012, the United States Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari. Rodgers v. Pfister , 133 S.Ct. 263 (2012).

On July 19, 2013, Petitioner filed the Motion for Relief From Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) at issue herein.[1]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), a court may relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). A motion under Rule 60(b) must be brought within a reasonable time. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). To justify relief under Rule 60(b)(6), a party must show extraordinary circumstances. See Pioneer Invest. Serv. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship , 507 U.S. 380, 393 (1993); see also Arrieta v. Battaglia , 461 F.3d 861, 865 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that extraordinary circumstances rarely occur in the habeas context) (quotations and citations omitted). Whether to grant a motion for relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) "lies within the sound discretion of the district court." Neuberg v. Michael Reese Hosp. Found. , 123 F.3d 951, 955 (7th Cir. 1997), citing Helm v. Resolution Trust Corp. , 84 F.3d 874, 877 (7th Cir. 1996).

III. ANALYSIS

In his Motion for Relief from Judgment, Petitioner argues that his case should be reopened for a merit-based review in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision on May 28, 2013 in McQuiggin v. Perkins , 133 S.Ct. 1924 (2013). In McQuiggin, the United States Supreme Court resolved a circuit split and held "that actual innocence, if proved, serves as a gateway through which a petitioner may pass whether the impediment is a procedural bar... or, as in this case, expiration of the statute of limitations." McQuiggin , 133 S.Ct. at 1928. Petitioner argues that the "Supreme Court's clarification about untimely habeas petitions that allege a threshold showing of actual innocence amounts to an extraordinary circumstance warranting relief from this Court's previous judgment." Motion, p. 4 (d/e 34). That is, if Petitioner can demonstrate a credible claim of actual innocence, this Court can address Petitioner's otherwise time-barred claims. Respondent objects to Petitioner's Motion on two grounds. First, Respondent argues that no extraordinary circumstances warrant reopening Petitioner's case. Second, Respondent asserts that Petitioner cannot show actual innocence because he does not have new reliable evidence that demonstrates his innocence. The Court agrees with Respondent.

A. Petitioner Has Not Demonstrated Extraordinary Circumstances Justifying Relief Under Rule 60(b)(6)

To obtain relief under Rule 60(b)(6), a petitioner must show "extraordinary circumstances" to warrant vacating the judgment. Legal developments after a judgment becomes final are not "extraordinary circumstances" that justify relief under Rule 60(b)(6). See Gonzalez v. Crosby , 545 U.S. 524, 537 (2005) (finding that a change in the interpretation to the AEDPA statute of limitations did not meet the requirement of finding "extraordinary circumstances" for vacating a long final federal habeas case); see also, e.g., Hill v. Rios, 722 F.3d 937, 938 (7th Cir. 2013) (noting that "legal developments after a judgment becomes final do not qualify as extraordinary"); United States ex rel. Garibaldi v. Orleans Parish Sch. Bd. , 397 F.3d 334, 339 (5th Cir. 2005) ("It is not extraordinary for the Supreme Court to deny certiorari in a court of appeals case that it ultimately overrules in the review of a later similar case."). As stated in James B. Beam Distilling Co. v. Georgia , 501 U.S. 529, 541 (1990) "retroactivity in civil cases must be limited by ...


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