Tenth Circuit Case Summary: Hagos v. Raemisch, 811 F.3d 363 (10th Cir. 2015)

by Tim Tarr, Staff Editor

FACTS

Appellant Hagos is currently serving two consecutive life sentences in Colorado State prison for two separate prosecutions. Hagos v. Raemisch, 811 F.3d 363 (10th Cir. 2015). Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder in April 2002. Id. at 364. In December of the same year he was separately convicted of first-degree kidnapping. Id. Appellant sought federal habeas review under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for both the murder case and the kidnapping case. Id. at 4. When the Appellant filed the § 2254 habeas petition in the kidnapping case in September 2013, Appellant’s request for a certificate of appealability (COA) on his § 2254 petition in the murder case was pending before the Tenth Circuit. Id. at 365.

Relying on persuasive authority in a case decided more than 40 years ago, the district court dismissed Appellant’s § 2254 application as non-justiciable for lack of a case or controversy. Id. at 366. The court concluded that granting habeas relief in the Appellant’s kidnapping case would not reduce his sentence or effect his immediate release because the Appellant was serving a life sentence for his murder conviction. Id. Therefore, the habeas petition would not satisfy the United States Constitution’s case or controversy requirement under Article III.

Relying on Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54 (1968), and Garlotte v. Fordice, 515 U.S. 39 (1995), Appellant argued he was “in custody” for purposes of habeas review, however, the district court rejected his arguments. Id. Appellant was granted a COA and he appealed that decision to the Tenth Circuit. Id. at 365. The issue presented before the Tenth Circuit is whether Appellant’s § 2254 petition presented a case or controversy for the purposes of Article III. Id. at 367.

ANALYSIS

The Tenth Circuit agreed with Appellant that Garlotte and Peyton stood for the proposition that “a prisoner’s consecutive sentences compose a ‘continuous stream,’ id., and the prisoner remains in custody for purposes of habeas review until all of the sentences are served.” Id. The Tenth Circuit found that because the Appellant’s § 2254 petition for his murder conviction was still pending, and because Appellant’s kidnapping conviction could affect his eligibility for prison programs, he indeed presented a justiciable case and controversy. Id. at 370.

CONCLUSION

The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order for two reasons: (1) the appellant was “in custody” for his kidnapping conviction for purposes of habeas review, and (2) an Article III case or controversy existed to permit the district court’s review of his § 2254 petition. Id.

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