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Casteel v. Foster

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 30, 2019

JOHN ALBERT CASTEEL, also known as Tayr Kilaab al Ghashiyah, Petitioner,


          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Petitioner John Albert Casteel, who is incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution, a restricted filer, and also known as Tayr Kilaab al Ghashiyah, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which has since been recharacterized as a petition brought under § 2254. Currently before the court is a motion by Respondents to dismiss the habeas petition as procedurally defaulted. Petitioner also filed a motion requesting bail pending the outcome of his habeas petition. For the reasons that follow, Respondents’ motion to dismiss will be granted and Petitioner’s motion for bail will be denied.


         Petitioner was convicted of armed robbery of two different banks on separate occasions and in two different trials; he was sentenced to fifty years in prison. See State v. Casteel, 2001 WI App. 188, ¶ 1, 247 Wis.2d 451, 634 N.W.2d 338. Since his incarceration, Petitioner has filed numerous motions and appeals challenging his convictions, including at least thirteen sets of motions before the circuit court challenging the robbery convictions alone. Id. at ¶ 12. In his eighth appeal before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the court dismissed his arguments, as it had in each previous appeal, and concluded that Petitioner knew or should have known his appeal was “without any reasonable basis in law or equity” and “not supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.” Id. at ¶ 19.

         Petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus with this court on September 27, 2018. His petition was initially denied, but the judgment was vacated and the case remanded by the United States Court of Appeals for this court to resolve the ambiguity of whether the Seventh Circuit’s 2009 sanction against Petitioner, see Al Ghashiyah v. Huibregtse, No. 09-2775, slip op. at 2 (7th Cir. Oct. 26, 2009), applies to the present petition. Upon remand, the court determined that Petitioner appeared to challenge the denial of an application for parole rather than an underlying conviction, and directed Respondents to file an answer or otherwise respond. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the habeas petition as procedurally defaulted.

         Petitioner’s application for parole was denied by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections on October 25, 2017. Dkt. No. 50 at 2. In denying Petitioner parole until at least March 2021, the parole commission considered Petitioner’s: (1) 68 minor and 76 major conduct reports during his incarceration; (2) failure to return a completed release plan to his social worker in advance of the parole hearing; and (3) “unmet treatment needs, conduct issues, and a poor history of community supervision” that continue to present an “unreasonable risk.” Dkt. No. 2 at 3. Following the denial of parole, Petitioner states he asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus on January 3, 2018; the court denied review. Dkt. No. 1 at 22.


         Petitioner did not challenge his adverse parole decision before the state courts in the manner and within the time prescribed by statute. This is a procedural default that cannot be cured as the time to bring such a claim has since expired; he cannot return to the state courts to exhaust claims that are now time-barred. Petitioner fails to provide any cause to warrant a finding of prejudice that would otherwise excuse his procedural default. For these reasons, Respondents’ motion to dismiss shall be granted.

         A. Petitioner failed to present his constitutional claims in the state court system before filing those claims in his federal habeas petition

         State prisoners are required to “exhaust” the remedies available to them in the state courts before a federal district court will consider the merits of constitutional claims in a federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Dressler v. McCaughtry, 238 F.3d 908, 912 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that if petitioner “either failed to exhaust all available state remedies or raise all claims before the state courts, his petition must be denied without considering its merits”). A federal district court cannot address the merits of the constitutional claims raised in a federal habeas petition “unless the state courts have had a full and fair opportunity to review them.” Farrell v. Lane, 939 F.2d 409, 410 (7th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted).

         “A petitioner must raise his constitutional claims in state court ‘to alert fairly the state court to the federal nature of the claim and to permit that court to adjudicate squarely that federal issue.’” Weddington v. Zatecky, 721 F.3d 456, 465 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Villanueva v. Anglin, 719 F.3d 769, 775 (7th Cir. 2013)). A petitioner exhausts his constitutional claim when he has presented it to the highest state court for a ruling on the merits. O’Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999); Arrieta v. Battaglia, 461 F.3d 861, 863 (7th Cir. 2006). A petitioner must fairly present his claims, which “requires the petitioner to assert his federal claim through one complete round of state-court review, either on direct appeal of his conviction or in post-conviction proceedings. This means that the 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.” Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025–26 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845) (citation omitted). Once the state’s highest court has had a full and fair opportunity to evaluate the merits of the claim, a prisoner is not required to present it again to the state courts. Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 516 n.18 (1972).

         Petitioner did not exhaust his state court remedies for wrongful denial of parole. Petitioner cites numerous appeals before the Wisconsin state courts throughout the materials filed with his habeas petition, ostensibly to show that he exhausted his claims in state court. These include the Wisconsin state court appeals identified as 17AP2209, 2015AP2125-W, 2017XX103-W, and 2017XX159-W. Dkt. No. 51 at 2. Petitioner also mentions a writ of habeas corpus made to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on January 3, 2018. Dkt. No. 1 at 22. However, Petitioner fails to explain how this writ or these appeals directly relate to the parole denial at issue here. In any event, none of these cases satisfy Petitioner’s requirement to properly exhaust his federal claims by first seeking certiorari in the state circuit court and presenting his parole challenge before each level in the Wisconsin state court system. Prior claims on related or unrelated issues will not suffice.

         In some cases presenting unexhausted claims or mixed claims, the petition is stayed by the federal district court and returned to the state courts for total exhaustion. The Supreme Court has explained that “as a matter of comity, federal courts should not consider a claim in a habeas corpus petition until after the state courts have had an opportunity to act.” Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 515 (1982) (citing In Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 251 (1886)). However, as explained in the discussion that follows, some claims cannot be remanded to the state courts to be exhausted if the time to meet the state procedural requirements to raise such claims has expired. Petitioner’s claims fall in this category, having been procedurally defaulted by the passage of time.

         B. As Petitioner procedurally defaulted on his claims in the state court system, theycannot be ...

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