Wednesday, January 20, 2016

State Petitioner Serving Consecutive Life Sentences Is "In Custody" for 2254 Purposes

Hagos v. Raemisch, 2015 WL 9466931 (12/29/2015) (CO): Hagos is serving consecutive state life sentences for murder and kidnapping. He is challenging the murder conviction a state habeas proceeding. In federal court, he filed a 28 USC § 2254 habeas petition contesting only the kidnapping conviction. The federal district court dismissed the petition because it found he was not “in custody” and had not presented a “case or controversy” for it to decide. It found he was not “in custody” because even if it granted his petition that would not have shortened his time in prison. For that same reason he had not presented a case or controversy. The appellate panel disagreed.

The panel found that Hagos is “in custody” for the purposes of habeas review. His consecutive sentences for murder and kidnapping ‘composed a continuous stream.’ In other words, he remains ‘in custody’ under all of his sentences until all are served. Hagos also satisfied Art. III’s case or controversy requirement because he is incarcerated on the kidnapping conviction which he is challenging. Additionally, the panel said it could not be certain that he would stay in prison for life if this federal petition was successful because Hagos is concurrently challenging his murder conviction in state court. Regardless, the panel ruled that the district court had to consider his habeas petition even if it would not hasten his release from prison because the kidnapping conviction could have adverse legal consequences. For example, this conviction can affect his custody level in prison.