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Caraway v. Litteral

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

May 28, 2019

JEREMY D. CARAWAY, PETITIONER,
v.
KATHY LITTERAL, Warden, RESPONDENT.

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          EDWARD B. ATKINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         After a two-day trial in Harlan Circuit Court, Jeremy D. Caraway (“Caraway”) was convicted on one count of rape, one count of sodomy, and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He received a sentence of five years of incarceration on each count, for a total sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal before the Kentucky Supreme Court. He then filed a motion to vacate the judgment and sentence pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure, RCr 11.42, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Though the trial court denied his motion, the Kentucky Court of Appeals granted him relief on the charge of rape and on one of the counts of sexual abuse, but affirmed the lower court on Caraway's conviction for sodomy and on the other count of sexual abuse. This decision reduced Caraway's sentence of incarceration to ten (10) years imprisonment. After the Kentucky Supreme Court denied discretionary review, he brought this action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his two remaining convictions, asserting that they were the product of ineffective assistance of counsel. Now, having reviewed the matter under the guidance of controlling law, the undersigned will recommend that his petition be denied.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The facts as summarized by the Harlan Circuit Court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Kentucky are not in dispute and therefore shall be accepted as true.[1]

         In May 2011, Caraway served as the pastor at Loyall Church of God in Harlan County, Kentucky. Sherry[2] was a member of the church and was thirteen years old at the time. Members of Sherry's family reported sexual misconduct between her and Caraway after discovering inappropriate electronic messages sent to the victim from Caraway.

         Following a two-day trial, Caraway was found guilty of one count of second-degree rape, one count of second-degree sodomy, and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. Caraway was sentenced to five-year prison sentences for each count, to be served consecutively for a total maximum sentence of 20-years imprisonment. On May 14, 2015, in a published opinion, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence. Caraway v. Commonwealth, 459 S.W.3d 849 (Ky. 2015). [R. 14-3 at 68-80].

         Following the higher court's decision, on December 28, 2015, Caraway filed a motion in the Harlan Circuit Court to vacate his judgment and sentence pursuant to RCr 11.42, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. [R. 14-3 at 81-91]. On August 18, 2016, the Harlan Circuit Court overruled his motion for relief. [R. 14-3 at 90]. Caraway then appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, arguing: first, that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to move the court to strike a particular juror; and second that trial counsel was ineffective by not challenging the jurisdiction and venue for the sodomy charge and sexual abuse charge. [R. 14-3 at 107-09]. The Kentucky Court of Appeals granted him relief on his convictions for rape and one count of sexual abuse but denied him relief on the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel raised in this motion, leaving him with a total sentence of ten-years imprisonment. On March 14, 2018, the Kentucky Supreme Court denied his motion for discretionary review. [R. 14-3 at 163].

         On June 7, 2018, Caraway filed the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [R. 1]. Here, he raises the same two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that were considered by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but which allowed him no relief. His first claim is that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to strike a particular juror. [R. 1-1 at 4-10]. His second claim is that his trial counsel was ineffective by not challenging jurisdiction and trial venue. [R. 1-1 at 11-17]. The Commonwealth maintains that Caraway is not entitled to relief because the state courts' rulings denying him relief on these claims were not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, as determined by the United States Supreme Court; nor were the state court's decisions based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in the light of the evidence presented. [R. 14].

         For the reasons stated below, the undersigned agrees with the Commonwealth's propositions.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court is required to review Caraway's request for habeas corpus relief pursuant to the standards set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which allows state prisoners to seek federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that they are being held in custody in violation of the Constitution, law or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 347 (1994); Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 654 (1996). In relevant part, Title 28 of the United States Code § 2254(d) states:

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).

         A state court adjudication is “contrary to” U.S. Supreme Court precedent if the state court “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the [Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the [Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). A state court adjudication is an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent if the court “identifies the correct governing legal principle . . . but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. A federal habeas court may not grant relief simply by concluding that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly; the “application must also be unreasonable.” Id. at 411. An unreasonable application of clearly established federal law occurs when the challenged state-court ruling rested on “an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fair-minded disagreement.” Metrish v. Lancaster, 569 U.S. 351, 358 (2013). Therefore, § 2254 creates a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ” and demands that “state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Davis v. Lafler, 658 F.3d 525, 530 (6th Cir. 2011). Section 2254 has essentially erected a “formidable barrier” to federal habeas relief for those prisoners whose claims were fully adjudicated in state court, requiring they show that the state court's ruling “was so lacking in justification that there was an error . . . beyond any possibility for fair-minded disagreement.” Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 20 (2013) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In his motion, Caraway claims that his attorney was ineffective in two ways: first, by failing to move the court to strike a particular juror; and second, by not challenging jurisdiction and venue. [R. 14-3 at 107-09].

         Ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) is a constitutional ground on which a sentence may be challenged under Section 2255. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); see also Weinberger v. United States, 268 F.3d 346, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). In evaluating such a challenge, the Sixth Circuit applies the two-prong test established in Strickland. Towns v. Smith, 395 F.3d 251, 258 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Under Strickland, a defendant first must show his or her counsel was deficient. “This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Second, a defendant must show that deficient performance actually prejudiced the defense. ‚ÄúThis requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is ...


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