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Martin v. White

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

June 1, 2018

ROZELL DESHUN MARTIN PETITIONER
v.
RANDY WHITE, Warden RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge

         Petitioner Rozell Deshun Martin has filed motions for the appointment of counsel (DN 5) and for an evidentiary hearing (DN 7). The District Judge denied the motions as premature without prejudice (DN 14). Martin filed renewed motions (DN 32 (appointment of counsel), DN 33 (motion for evidentiary hearing)). The Warden responded to Martin's motion for an evidentiary hearing (DN 35). For the reasons that follow, Martin's motions are granted.

         Discussion

         In determining whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a District Court must resolve two separate concerns: (1) whether the hearing is necessary under Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings in United States District Courts; and (2) whether the hearing is permissible under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). See Zimmerman v. Davis, 683 F.Supp.2d 523, 532 (E.D. Mich. 2010). With respect to the first issue, Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts provides in relevant part as follows:

(a) Determining Whether to Hold a Hearing. If the petition is not dismissed, the judge must review the answer, any transcripts and records of state-court proceedings, and any materials submitted under Rule 7 to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted.

         The district court has the discretion to determine whether a habeas corpus petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Riley v. Lockhart, 726 F.2d 421 (8th Cir. 1984); Reese v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247 (3rd Cir. 1991). An evidentiary hearing is unnecessary where the petitioner would not be entitled to relief if his asserted version of the events were believed, Procunier v. Atchley, 400 U.S. 446 (1971), or where a purely legal issue is presented. Bradley v. Cowan, 500 F.2d 380, 381 (6th Cir. 1974).

         Here, Martin has advanced two similar claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that the undersigned concludes require further development. First, Martin alleges that trial counsel's failure to investigate the victim's alleged prior sexual abuse accusations against her step-father amounted to deficient performance that substantially prejudiced him. A review of the material submitted thus far suggests that Martin's trial involved, though not exclusively, at least significant reliance on credibility evidence. If the accuser in this case made prior allegations, and counsel did nothing to investigate the veracity of those prior allegations, as Martin alleges, then there exists a plausible scenario where further evidence might support a finding of deficient performance resulting in prejudice. Similarly, Martin asserts trial counsel was deficient for failing to call witnesses relating to the victim's alleged prior allegations of sexual abuse (Id. at 284-88). This claim is in reality an extension of the prior claim, and the undersigned concludes that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to develop the record as to trial counsel's actions, strategy, and knowledge at the relevant time.

         Having determined an evidentiary hearing is necessary, the undersigned will address whether one is permissible. The statute provides as follows:

(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows that-
(A) the claim relies on-
(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or
(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence; and
(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found ...

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