United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
Wayne Collins, pro se.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court.
matter is before the Court on the objections of both
Petitioner (DN 37) and Respondent (DN 34) to the Magistrate
Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and
Recommendation (“R. & R.”) (DN 33). For the
following reasons, the R. & R. is ADOPTED to the extent
not inconsistent with this opinion, and all objections are
OVERRULED. Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus (DN 1) is DISMISSED. A limited Certificate of
Appealability is GRANTED as to Ground One, but DENIED as to
Petitioner's remaining claims.
Kentucky Supreme Court summarized the events leading to
Petitioner John Wayne Collins' (“Petitioner”
or “Appellant”) conviction and subsequent pending
petition for habeas corpus as follows:
On October 10, 2004, Appellant and his girlfriend, Christa
Wilson, were visiting Appellant's father, Harold Wayne
Collins, and then-stepmother, April Sizemore Collins. Another
friend, Natasha Saylor, was also present. Everyone was on the
porch of the home, visiting and drinking, when Stevie Collins
pulled into the driveway, exited his vehicle and approached
the porch. Stevie Collins extended an invitation for them to
accompany him to church, and Appellant's father invited
Stevie into the house. Appellant's father then shot
Stevie in the face, whereupon Stevie fell to the floor and
began pleading for his life. Appellant told his father that
they could not let Stevie leave there. Appellant's father
agreed and instructed Appellant to finish the job. Appellant
retrieved his own gun and shot Stevie seven or eight times
more, killing Stevie. A possible explanation for Stevie
Collins's murder was revealed at trial when witnesses,
including Appellant's uncle, Joe B. Collins, testified
that his brother, Appellant's developmentally disabled
uncle, had been murdered and dismembered in 1997, and that it
was believed that Stevie Collins was responsible for the
uncle's murder. After the shooting, the group left in
three different vehicles and met up again at a relative's
house in Henry County, where they continued to drink and
Meanwhile, police were dispatched to the murder scene.
Kentucky State Police Sergeant, John Yates, one of the
investigating officers, testified that one 9mm round was
discovered on the front porch and eight SKS rounds were found
in the yard on either side of the porch. Later, when
Appellant's father was arrested, a 9mm handgun was
retrieved from his vehicle. Ammunition fitting the
description of the ammunition retrieved from Stevie
Collins's body was found in Appellant's vehicle.
However, lab results on the weapons were inconclusive.
Although Appellant's girlfriend, Christa Wilson,
Appellant's stepmother, April Sizemore Collins, and
Natasha Saylor all repeatedly denied any knowledge of Stevie
Collins's murder during the initial police investigation,
both Natasha and April testified at trial to a substantially
similar version of events, consistent with the factual
summary set out hereinabove. Both also testified that they
initially lied to the police because they had been threatened
not to speak of Stevie Collins's shooting. April had been
threatened by her then-husband, Appellant's father, while
Natasha had been threatened by both Appellant and his father.
Forty days after Stevie Collins was murdered, the body of
Christa Wilson was found face down in a creek. She died from
a gunshot wound to the head. Christa had last been seen with
Appellant. Paint that was discovered on a rock near
Christa's body appeared to have been the result of a
vehicle scraping the rock, and Appellant's vehicle
appeared to have been damaged in the rear bumper area. A
sample of the paint was compared with a paint sample taken
from Appellant's vehicle, the one he was driving when
Christa was last seen with him. At trial, a forensic science
specialist for the Kentucky State Police (KSP) and a defense
expert witness testified concerning the results. The KSP
specialist testified that the paint layer from the rock
sample was identical to the paint layer from Appellant's
vehicle in all areas, i.e., color, type, structure, texture,
and elemental composition. The defense expert testified that
the substrata of the paint samples differed in thickness and
that the bottom layer did not match. For this reason, the
defense expert disagreed that the paint samples were
identical, but he did admit that the paint samples were
extremely similar. Further, the defense expert explained that
paint layer thickness varies across each vehicle and, in
fact, two samples taken from Appellant's vehicle varied
in thickness. He also testified that the difference in
substrates could be the result of previous repairs made to
Ultimately, Appellant was tried and convicted for both the
murder of Stevie Collins and the murder of Christa Wilson.
Appellant had, initially, been indicted for Stevie
Collins's murder. While Appellant was awaiting trial on
that charge, he was indicted for the kidnapping and murder of
Christa Wilson. As a jury was being selected for the Stevie
Collins's murder, the Commonwealth moved to consolidate
the two cases. Over Appellant's objection, the trial
court granted consolidation, but gave Appellant a
continuance. The Commonwealth filed a notice of intent to
seek the death penalty based upon intentional killing and
multiple deaths. Subsequently, Appellant moved to sever the
offenses, arguing that his option to testify at trial was
compromised by joinder given his conflicting theories of
defense. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that
evidence in each case would presumably be admissible in the
other. As stated above, when an impartial jury could not be
seated in Clay County, the case was transferred to the Warren
Circuit Court. Appellant renewed his motion to sever after
transfer, but the Warren Circuit Court also concluded that
joinder was appropriate, and denied the motion to sever.
Collins v. Commonwealth, No. 2008-SC-000107-MR, 2010
WL 2471839, at *1-2 (Ky. Nov. 18, 2010). Petitioner was
convicted at trial and sentenced to life without parole for a
minimum of twenty-five years on each of the two counts.
(Resp't's Answer Attach. 3, at 25-28, DN 26-3). The
Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal by a 4-3
margin. Collins, 2010 WL 2471839, at *1, *7. After
he sought relief under Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42, the Kentucky
Court of Appeals affirmed the Warren Circuit Court's
decision. Collins v. Commonwealth, No.
2011-CA-002105-MR, 2013 WL 2257673 (Ky. App. May 24, 2013).
The Kentucky Supreme Court denied Petitioner's motion for
discretionary review. (Resp't's Answer Attach. 6, at
138, DN 26-6).
Petitioner filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus in this Court
on six grounds. (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus, DN 1 [hereinafter
Pet.]). First, Petitioner argued that his Fifth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the trial
court's joinder of the two murder counts and denial of
his subsequent motions to sever. (Pet. 5). Second, Petitioner
alleged his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when
the trial court refused to grant a mistrial following
testimony from Commonwealth witness Natasha Saylor
(“Saylor”) regarding her assault. (Pet. 6).
Third, Petitioner claimed he was denied his Fourteenth
Amendment right to due process when the trial court allowed
the Commonwealth to elicit prejudicial hearsay statements
during the testimony of April Collins. (Pet. 6). Fourth,
Petitioner argued that his Fourteenth Amendment due process
rights were violated when the trial court permitted a
testifying witness for the Commonwealth to remain in the
courtroom during all testimony, “permitting her to
clean up the Commonwealth's case by refuting the defense
theory of justification/defense.” (Pet. 7). Fifth,
Petitioner alleged he was denied his Sixth Amendment rights
because the Commonwealth's opening statement included
reference to Harold Collins' statements regarding his
invocation of the right to remain silent and request for an
attorney, and Petitioner's counsel's failure to
object further denied Petitioner his Sixth Amendment rights.
(Pet. 7). Sixth and finally, Petitioner claimed that his
Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the
Commonwealth introduced hearsay statements of Harold Collins
through the testimony of Detective Yates, and
Petitioner's counsel's failure to object further
denied Petitioner his Sixth Amendment rights. (Pet. 9). On
November 14, 2017, Magistrate Judge Brennenstuhl issued an R.
& R. recommending dismissal of Petitioner's Petition
on the merits of each of Petitioner's claims, and
recommending the issuance of a limited certificate of
appealability as to Ground One, but denying the same as to
the remaining five claims. (R. & R. 27, DN 33).
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).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No.
104-132, 110 Stat.
(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;
(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).
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 ...