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Stinnett v. Litteral

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

February 22, 2018

LAWRENCE STINNETT PETITIONER
v.
KATHY LITTERAL, Warden RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Objection (DN 28, 29) to the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R. & R.”) (DN 27). For the following reasons, the R. & R. is ADOPTED and Petitioner's Objection is OVERRULED. Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (DN 1, 16) is DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts and procedural history in this matter are not in dispute. (See R. & R. 1-6, DN 27). Petitioner was indicted for the brutal 2006 kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend. Stinnett v. Commonwealth, 364 S.W.3d 70, 75 (Ky. 2011). At trial, Petitioner represented himself with the assistance of two attorneys from the Department of Public Advocacy serving as stand-by, or hybrid, counsel. Id. He was convicted and sentenced to a term of life without parole. Id. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal. Id. at 74. After he sought relief under Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the Warren Circuit Court's decision. Stinnett v. Commonwealth, No. 2015-CA-000157-MR, 2016 WL 4490586, at *1-9 (Ky. App. Aug. 26, 2017). The Kentucky Supreme Court denied Petitioner's motion for discretionary review. (DN 18-2).

         In his Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner sets forth two claims: (1) that his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation was violated by his appointed standby counsel, for which the Kentucky Court of Appeals improperly failed to grant relief upon based on an unreasonable application of McKaskle v. Wiggins, 465 U.S. 168 (1984); and (2) to the extent that standby counsel were operating within their proper duties as counsel, he received ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment and the Kentucky Court of Appeals' holding was a contrary to and an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has jurisdiction to “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996) (“AEDPA”), applies to all habeas corpus petitions filed after April 24, 1996, and requires “heightened respect” for legal and factual determinations made by state courts. See Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1998). Section 2254(d), as amended by AEDPA, provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         This is a “difficult to meet and highly deferential standard . . . .” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (internal citation omitted) (citation omitted). Legal conclusions made by state courts are also given substantial deference under AEDPA. The Supreme Court has concluded that “a federal habeas court may overturn a state court's application of federal law only if it is so erroneous that there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's ...


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