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Habeas Relief – Equitable Tolling

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//September 18, 2023//

Habeas Relief – Equitable Tolling

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//September 18, 2023//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Marcus Conner v. Dennis Reagle

Case No.: 22-1780

Officials: Rovner, Kirsch, and Jackson-Akiwumi, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Habeas Relief – Equitable Tolling

In an Indiana state court, Conner faced convictions on three felony drug dealing charges and maintaining a common nuisance. Due to his status as a habitual offender, he received a lengthy sentence of 72 years behind bars. Throughout the pre-trial phase, Conner had been in custody, yet a significant delay of 1,029 days from the charging date (1,034 days from his arrest) occurred. Curiously, Conner’s attorney never raised a Sixth Amendment objection concerning these pretrial delays. Any objections Conner himself raised were dismissed because he was already represented by legal counsel. Subsequently, state courts rejected Conner’s post-trial claims regarding the Sixth Amendment and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Conner received guidance from his postconviction attorney to hold off on filing his federal habeas petition until the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling on the certiorari petition filed after his state postconviction proceedings. Conner followed this advice, ultimately to his detriment, as the one-year window within which to file the habeas petition continued to elapse while the certiorari petition remained pending.

Ultimately, Conner’s subsequent habeas petition was dismissed by the district court for being untimely, as stipulated by 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A) & (d)(2). The Seventh Circuit upheld this decision, acknowledging that the mistake made by Conner’s postconviction lawyer was significant. However, they determined that both Supreme Court and circuit precedent left no room for equitably tolling the deadline.

Affirmed.

Decided 09/12/23

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