United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge.
matter is before the Court upon the Recommended Disposition
filed by Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram [DE 13] and
Petitioner's Objections thereto [DE 14]. Having
considered the matter de novo in light of those
objections, the Court adopts Magistrate Judge Ingram's
recommended disposition as its own.
Rae Stevens was murdered in Kentucky in 1999. In April 2000,
a roadside cleaning crew found most of her remains in a dark
blue garment bag at the bottom of a hill. The initial target
of the murder investigation was Thomas Jansen, Stevens's
boyfriend at the time of her disappearance in May 2009.
Investigators' suspicion then pivoted toward her former
boyfriend, Leonard Day, and his girlfriend, petitioner
Deborah Huiett. Day and Huiett faced separate jury trials and
were convicted. The Commonwealth's theory was that Huiett
stabbed Stevens in a fit of jealous rage, and that Day helped
Huiett finish off the victim and dispose of her body. Day was
tried first and convicted of Stevens's murder. Day
appealed as a matter of right to the Kentucky Supreme Court,
which unanimously affirmed the judgment. Day v.
Commonwealth, No. 2004-SC-000039-MR, 2006 WL 2707960
(Ky. Sept. 21, 2006). His conviction was the subject of a
habeas corpus petition in this court in which relief was
denied. See Day v. Beckstrom, No. 2:14-CV-75-KKC-HAI
(E.D. KY April 11, 2016). The United States Court of Appeals
denied his application for a Certificate of Appealability.
See Day v. Beckstrom, No. 16-5610 (6th Cir. Feb. 9,
Huiett's case, after a trial lasting several days, the
jury convicted Petitioner on both counts and the state trial
court sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment as
recommended by the jury. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed
on direct appeal. Huiett v. Commonwealth,
2005-SC-000643-MR, 2007 WL 4793688 (Ky. June 21, 2007),
as modified Jan. 24, 2008. The Kentucky Supreme
Court addressed one claim which Petitioner has included in
her habeas petition (Claim 5) regarding a comment
co-defendant Leonard Day made to a witness. As mentioned
above, Day was tried separately.
filed a pro se motion to vacate the conviction under
Ky.R.Crim.Proc. 11.42 before her direct appeal was final. The
state trial court appointed counsel who filed a supplemental
brief and asked for DNA testing. The trial court then held a
two-day evidentiary hearing on the post-conviction motion
before denying relief.
Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's
order in all respects except that it remanded the issue of
DNA testing to the trial court. Huiett v.
Commonwealth, No. 2012-CA-001824-MR, 2014 WL 1268695
(Ky.App. Mar. 28, 2014), as modified Aug. 29, 2014 on
denial of reh'g. App. 427-450. DNA testing is still
pending before the state trial court. The Kentucky Court of
Appeals addressed four claims pending before this Court; a
claim that the Commonwealth failed to produce exculpatory
information before trial and three claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel.
prisoner has a statutory right to collaterally attack her
conviction or sentence. West v. Bell, 242 F.3d 338,
346 (6th Cir. 2001). A state prisoner may seek federal habeas
corpus relief on the ground that she is being held in custody
in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
Antiterrorism 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;
(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 “highly deferential” standard of review that is
“difficult to meet.” Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011).
All of the state court's factual findings are presumed to
be correct, and can be rebutted only by “clear and
convincing evidence.” Mitchell v. Mason, 325
F.3d 732, 737-38 (6th Cir. 2003); 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). Legal conclusions made by state courts also
receive substantial deference under AEDPA. “[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
precedents.” Nevada v. Jackson, 569 U.S., 133
S.Ct. 1990, 1992 (2013) (per curiam) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Also, “circuit precedent does not
constitute clearly established Federal law” under
AEDPA. Parker v. Matthews, 567 U.S., 132 S.Ct. 2148,
2155 (2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). In sum,
“federal judges are required to afford state courts due
respect by overturning their decisions only when there could
be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.”
Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015).
the question before this Court is not merely whether the
Kentucky courts were incorrect, but whether they were so
wrong that their treatment of the law and facts was
“unreasonable” under these deferential standards.
Judge Ingram correctly analyzed Petitioner's claims under
AEDPA in a thorough and in-depth fashion and found them
wanting. Although Petitioner has filed objections to his
recommended disposition [DE 14], the Court wholly agrees ...