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Williams v. Warden-Central Detention Facility

March 11, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 1, 6




The pro se petitioner is incarcerated at the District of Columbia Jail for charges pending against him in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia ("Superior Court"). This matter is before the court on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking to invoke his right to a speedy trial, or in the alternative, seeking to be released from custody and to have all charges against him dropped. The respondent*fn1 moves to dismiss, arguing that the petitioner has failed to exhaust his remedies in the District of Columbia courts. Because the petitioner's claims can be resolved in the Superior Court, and because the petitioner has not presented any special circumstances justifying pretrial federal review of his detention, considerations of comity preclude this court from interfering with the ongoing Superior Court proceedings. Therefore, the court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and grants the respondent's motion to dismiss.


The petitioner was arrested on July 2, 2005 and brought before the Superior Court on several charges.*fn3 Resp.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Resp.'s Mot.") at 1; Resp.'s Show Cause Response at 1. On January 20, 2006 the petitioner failed to appear at his arraignment, and the court issued a bench warrant. Resp.'s Mot. at 1. The petitioner was arrested pursuant to the execution of the warrant on April 12, 2006, and a status hearing was set. The petitioner was released, but he again failed to appear at the scheduled status hearing. 2. Subsequently, at some unknown date, the petitioner was re-arrested. The Superior Court sent a detainer to the Maryland Department of Correction on June 27, 2006, notifying it that an arrest warrant charging the petitioner had been issued. Pet'r's Reply, Ex. 3.Subsequently, the Superior Court issued a writ of habeas ad prosequendum on October 18, 2006 to the warden of the Eastern Correctional Institution and the United States Marshal for the State of Maryland, ordering the petitioner to appear for arraignment in the District of Columbia on December 4, 2006. Resp.'s Mot. at 2. The petitioner then filed pro se a "Motion to Dismiss Indictments." Id.

The petitioner was arraigned and pled not guilty to all charges, and on January 12, 2007, he filed pro se a Motion to Dismiss in the Superior Court for failure to comply with the Speedy Trial Act. 2-3. A forensic examination was requested by the Superior Court, but the petitioner was uncooperative. Id. at 3. Following an unsuccessful attempted competency examination of the petitioner, Judge Iscoe of the Superior Court denied both pending motions to dismiss and ordered the petitioner to an inpatient competency examination to determine the petitioner's competency to stand trial. Id. On April 27, 2007, the petitioner was deemed competent to stand trial. The petitioner subsequently expressed dissatisfaction with his counsel, and the Superior Court granted counsel's motion to withdraw. Id.

The Superior Court appointed new counsel on May 15, 2007, but the petitioner nonetheless filed pro se a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on April 17, 2007 in this court, alleging prosecutorial misconduct and violations of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers,*fn4 the Fifth Amendment presentment and due process clauses, the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, and the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause. See generally Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Pet."). The respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss on May 21, 2007, followed by numerous memoranda, notices and replies by the petitioner. The court now simultaneously addresses the petition for writ of habeas corpus and the respondent's motion to dismiss the petition.


A. 28 U.S.C. § 2241 Governs the Permissibility of Pretrial Habeas Petitions

In considering habeas petitions, Congress makes a distinction between pretrial and post-conviction petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2254*fn5 governs habeas petitions filed after a state court judgment, whereas 28 U.S.C. § 2241*fn6 governs a "person in custody regardless of whether final judgment has been rendered and regardless of the present status of the case pending against him." Dickerson v. Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 224 (5th Cir. 1987) (holding that the district court improperly construed a pro se defendant's pretrial habeas corpus petition under section 2254 instead of section 2241, since section 2254 only applies to post-judgment petitions); see also Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Ky, 410 U.S. 484, 503-04 (1973).

Prior to a judgment of conviction in state court, "federal habeas corpus does not lie, absent 'special circumstances,' to adjudicate the merits of an affirmative defense to a state criminal charge prior to a judgment of conviction by a state court." Braden, 410 U.S. at 489 (quoting Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 253 (1886)). There is "an important distinction between a petitioner who seeks to 'abort a state proceeding or to disrupt the orderly functioning of state judicial processes' . . . and one who seeks only to enforce the state's obligation to bring him promptly to trial." Brown v. Estelle, Jr., 530 F.2d 1280, 1283 (5th Cir. 1976) (quoting Braden, 410 U.S. at 491). Federal courts, respecting comity, will ...

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