Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. White

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

March 13, 2018

LASHAWN JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
RANDY WHITE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          United States District Court David J. Hale, Judge.

         LaShawn Johnson filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Docket No. 1) Respondent Randy White opposes Johnson's petition. (D.N. 15) The Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay, who submitted Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation. (D.N. 29) Judge Lindsay recommended that the Court deny Johnson's petition with prejudice and deny a certificate of appealability. (Id., PageID # 358) White and Johnson timely filed objections to Judge Lindsay's report and recommendation. (D.N. 30; D.N. 31) While Johnson objects to Judge Lindsay's recommendation that his petition be denied (D.N. 31), White took “the unusual position” of objecting to the favorable report to correct an oversight in failing to bring a Sixth Circuit case to Judge Lindsay's attention (D.N. 30). For the reasons set forth below, White's objection will be sustained, and Johnson's objection will be overruled. The Court will adopt in part Judge Lindsay's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation and deny Johnson's habeas petition.

         I.BACKGROUND

         A jury found Johnson guilty of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary and sentenced him to twenty-five years' imprisonment. Johnson v. Commonwealth, 327 S.W.3d 501, 505 (Ky. 2010). Johnson appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which hears direct appeals from circuit-court judgments imposing prison sentences of twenty years or more. See Ky. Const. § 110(2)(b); Johnson, 327 S.W.3d at 503. In his direct appeal, Johnson argued that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on second-degree robbery and second-degree burglary and in failing to hold an evidentiary hearing on his motion to suppress DNA evidence. Johnson, 327 S.W.3d at 503. The Kentucky Supreme Court rejected Johnson's arguments and affirmed the trial court's judgment. Id.

         Johnson then filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment against him pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.42. Johnson v. Commonwealth, No. 2012-CA-000320-MR, 2013 WL 1776029, at *1 (Ky. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2013). As grounds for the motion, Johnson asserted that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to conduct an adequate pretrial investigation, failing to prepare for trial, permitting unlawful DNA evidence to be admitted at trial, and failing to ensure that the jury was properly instructed. Id. at *2. The trial court denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed. Id. at *1, *5. Johnson filed a motion for discretionary review, which the Kentucky Supreme Court denied. (D.N. 15-11, PageID # 277)

         Johnson, who remains in state custody, has filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (D.N. 1) As grounds for his petition, Johnson alleges that the state trial court refused to let the jury decide whether the weapon used in this case was a “deadly weapon”; the court allowed illegally obtained DNA evidence to be submitted to the jury; trial counsel refused to allow him to represent himself; counsel refused to ask certain questions of the victim at trial; and counsel failed to object to perjury during the sentencing phase of his trial. (Id., PageID # 5, 7-8, 10, 12)

         This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay for Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (D.N. 10, PageID # 40; D.N. 23) Both White and Johnson filed objections to the report and recommendation. (D.N. 30; D.N. 31) The Court reviews de novo the portions of the report and recommendation to which objections are filed. See Walkup v. United States, No. 1:09-CR-00026-TBR-HBB, 2016 WL 6780332, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Nov. 15, 2016).

         11. DISCUSSION

         A.Legal Standards

         A district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

An application for a writ of habeas corpus . . . shall not be granted unless it appears that-
(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or
(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective process; or
(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.

§ 2254(b)(1). “An applicant shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State, within the meaning of this section, if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented.” § 2254(c). “In order to exhaust a claim, the petitioner ‘must “fairly present” his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim.'” Woolbright v. Crews, 791 F.3d 628, 631 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004)). “When a petitioner has failed to fairly present his claims to the state courts and no state remedy remains, his claims are considered to be procedurally defaulted.” Id. “If a petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted, they may not be reviewed by a habeas court unless he can demonstrate ‘cause' and ‘prejudice.'” Id. (quoting McMeans v. Brigano, 228 F.3d 674, 680 (6th Cir. 2000)).

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which amended Section 2254(d), “requires ‘heightened respect' for legal and factual determinations made by state courts.” Chatman v. Litteral, No. 5:16-cv-00177-GNS-LLK, 2017 WL 4330370, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 29, 2017) (quoting Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1998)). The AEDPA provides that

[a]n 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.

§ 2254(d). “Under the ‘contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by th[e] [Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than th[e] [Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). “Under the ‘unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from th[e] [Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 413.

         B. White's Objection

         Judge Lindsay concluded that Johnson procedurally defaulted two of his claims related to ineffective assistance of counsel because he did not present them to the state courts or show good cause for his failure to do so. (D.N. 29, PageID # 355, 358) White objected to Judge Lindsay's conclusion that Johnson failed to show good cause, on the basis of a recent Sixth Circuit decision holding that there may be good cause to excuse procedural default of an ineffective-assistance claim if the prisoner was unrepresented by counsel during the initial collateral-review proceeding in state court.[1] (D.N. 30, PageID # 359-60) That case, Woolbright, supra, reiterated prior Supreme Court holdings that cause to excuse procedural default of a substantial ineffective-assistance claim may be established where (1) state law bars or denies a petitioner the meaningful opportunity to raise ineffective-assistance claims on direct appeal; and (2) the petitioner was unrepresented (or lacked effective assistance of counsel) at his initial collateral-review proceeding. 791 F.3d at 631 (citing Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U.S. 413, 429 (2013) and Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 17 (2012)). While White asserts that Woolbright represents a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.