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Rhines v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

May 25, 2018




         Petitioner, Charles Russell Rhines, moves the court for leave to amend his petition for habeas corpus under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), or in the alternative, moves the court for relief from judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). Docket 383. Respondent, Darin Young, resists the motion on both grounds. Docket 389. In addition, Rhines moves the court for an order requiring Young to produce Rhines for two mental health expert evaluations in support of a potential clemency application to the South Dakota Governor. Docket 394. Respondent also opposes Rhines's motion for expert access. Docket 396.[1] For the following reasons, the court denies Rhines's motion to amend under Rule 15(a)(2), denies Rhines's motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(6), and denies Rhines's motion for expert access.


         The factual and procedural history of this case is more fully set forth in the court's February 16, 2016 order granting summary judgment in favor of respondent. See Docket 305. The court will briefly summarize the procedural history and then address any facts that are relevant to Rhines's pending motions throughout the analysis.

         Rhines is an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder and third-degree burglary of a Dig'Em Donuts Shop in Rapid City, South Dakota. On January 26, 1993, a jury found that the death penalty should be imposed, and the trial judge sentenced Rhines to death by lethal injection. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Rhines's conviction and sentence on direct appeal, and the United States Supreme Court denied further review in 1996. Rhines applied for a writ of habeas corpus in state court, raising numerous issues, which was denied in 1998 and affirmed by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 2000.

         Rhines then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2000. This court found several of Rhines's claims were unexhausted and granted a stay pending exhaustion in state court. Following respondent's appeal, the Eighth Circuit vacated the stay and remanded the case. Rhines filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari. After finding that a stay and abeyance is permissible under some circumstances, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further analysis not relevant to the pending motions. Ultimately, Rhines's petition in this court was stayed until he exhausted his state court claims. When this court lifted the stay, respondent moved for summary judgment. On February 16, 2016, this court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment, denied Rhines's amended habeas petition, and ruled on numerous other motions not relevant to the current motions. See Dockets 304, 305, 306. The court then denied Rhines's motion to alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Docket 348. On August 3, 2016, Rhines appealed this court's rulings to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Docket 357. Rhines has filed the two current motions during the pendency of his appeal.


         I. Rhines's Motion for Leave to Amend Petition under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2)

         Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), a petitioner must file his or her application for a writ of habeas corpus within one year of:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).

         Because habeas proceedings are civil in nature, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply. See 28 U.S.C. § 2242 (“[An application for a writ of habeas corpus] may be amended or supplemented as provided in the rules of procedure applicable to civil actions.”). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) allows a party to amend its pleading with the opposing party's consent or the court's leave “when justice so requires.” But a petitioner's amendment must meet the relation back requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, which provides:

(1) When an Amendment Relates Back. An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when:
(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;
(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out--in the original pleading . . . .

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c); see also McKay v. Purkett, 255 F.3d 660, 660-61 (8th Cir. 2001) (applying Rule 15(c) to a petitioner's § 2254 amended petition and affirming the district court's dismissal of the amended claims because they did not relate back to petitioner's original claims). Thus, in the habeas context, any amendment to a timely filed habeas petition must be filed within AEDPA's one-year limitations period or the amendment must assert a claim that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out in the original petition.

         The Supreme Court has addressed what the phrase “conduct, transaction, or occurrence” means under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(2) in the habeas framework. In Mayle, the Ninth Circuit, in agreement with the Seventh Circuit, had interpreted “conduct, transaction, or occurrence” to allow relation back to an original habeas petition when the petitioner's new claim stemmed from the petitioner's trial, conviction, or sentence. Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 656 (2005). The Supreme Court rejected that definition because it was too broad. Id. at 656-58. “An amended habeas petition, we hold, does not relate back (and thereby escape AEDPA's one-year time limit) when it asserts a new ground for relief supported by facts that differ in both time and type from those the original pleading set forth.” Id. at 650.

         The substance of Rhines's new claim is that some jurors from his trial have recently expressed the notion that a homosexual bias against Rhines “played a significant role in the decision to sentence him to death.” Docket 383 at 1. And Rhines argues such juror bias is now admissible under the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S.Ct. 855 (2017). Id.

         Because Rhines has appealed this court's denial of his habeas petition to the Eighth Circuit and that appeal is still pending, this court must first determine if it has jurisdiction over Rhines's current motion. Rhines maintains that this court still has jurisdiction to allow his amendment because “the judgment is not yet final.” Id. at 3. Other than his reliance on Nims v. Ault, 251 F.3d 698 (8th Cir. 2001) and resistance to Williams v. Norris, 461 F.3d 999 (8th Cir. 2006), which will be addressed below, see infra Section II.B., Rhines has not cited any Eighth Circuit precedent to establish that a judgment is not considered “final” until it is affirmed on appeal. In response, respondent contends that this court's judgment is final so the Eighth Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over Rhines's case. Docket 389 at 7-9.

         A. Judgment is Final

         In general, a district court decision is final if “there is some clear and unequivocal manifestation by the trial court of its belief that the decision made, so far as [the court] is concerned, is the end of the case.” Waterson v. Hall, 515 F.3d 852, 855 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted) (alteration in original). “A final decision is ordinarily one which disposes of all the rights of all the parties to an action.” Patterson v. City of Omaha, 779 F.3d 795, 800 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotation omitted).

         Here, judgment is final. In addition to the order granting respondent's motion for summary judgment and denying Rhines's petition for habeas corpus (Docket 305), this court entered a judgment denying Rhines's petition for habeas corpus relief on February 16, 2016. Docket 306. Entering a judgment clearly demonstrated the court's belief that Rhines's case was over. Rhines moved the court to alter or amend its judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) (Docket 323), which this court denied. Docket 348. Rhines then appealed several of this court's rulings, including this court's order granting summary judgment in favor of respondent (Docket 305) and judgment (Docket 306). Docket 357. See Patterson, 779 F.3d at 800 (noting that the Eighth Circuit's jurisdiction is “limited to appeals taken from final decisions of the district courts.”). ...

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