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Grace v. Cain

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 13, 2015

JESSIE J. GRACE, III,
v.
N. BURL CAIN, SECTION

ORDER AND REASONS

JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 25). During the course of its review of this matter, the Court has concluded that disclosure of grand jury testimony is warranted. Because the testimony reveals the presence of several new claims, the Court STAYS this matter to permit Petitioner the opportunity to properly exhaust his new claims in state court.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner Jessie Grace was convicted of second degree murder on January 14, 1994, after a jury trial in Louisiana state court. His conviction and sentence became final on October 27, 1994. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief in Louisiana state court. The denial of that petition became final on May 24, 2002. On March 26, 2003, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus before this Court. Judge Duplaintier dismissed the petition without prejudice but granted Petitioner leave to refile the petition after exhausting his state court remedies. Petitioner returned to this Court and filed an Amended Petition on July 30, 2012. This petition is presently before the Court.

The Amended Petition was referred to a Magistrate Judge to submit proposed findings and recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and as applicable, Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. After the State responded to the Amended Petition, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that the Amended Petition be dismissed with prejudice because Petitioner's claims were procedurally defaulted.[1] Petitioner objected to the Report, conceding that his claims were procedurally defaulted, but arguing that he was nonetheless entitled to review of the Amended Petition under the Supreme Court's decisions in Schlup v. Delo and its progeny.[2] This Court granted Petitioner's objections in part, finding that Petitioner had presented sufficient evidence of his innocence to warrant an evidentiary hearing.[3] The Court held an evidentiary hearing and ordered both pre- and post-hearing memoranda. At the evidentiary hearing, Petitioner called a representative of the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office, Terry Boudreaux, as a witness. Mr. Boudreaux testified that he received a subpoena for the District Attorney's file related to Petitioner and had turned over certain documents to Petitioner. Mr. Boudreaux, however, declined to disclose certain non-discoverable documents, including the grand jury testimony. Petitioner requested that the Court conduct an in camera review of the withheld portions of the file to determine whether disclosure was proper.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

The Court has reviewed the file and concludes that portions of the grand jury testimony must be disclosed to Petitioner because the testimony reveals the existence of potential habeas claims previously unavailable to Petitioner. In light of this previously undisclosed testimony, this Court believes that Petitioner may have unexhausted Brady, [4] Napue, [5] and Giglio [6] claims. In this Order, the Court first explains the basis for its authority to order the disclosure of the testimony. Second, the Court explains why the content of the testimony merits disclosure. Finally, the Court considers what procedural steps are necessary in light of the new evidence.

I. The Court's Authority to Disclose the Grand Jury Testimony

Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 434 provides, in pertinent part, that "all persons having confidential access to information concerning grand jury proceedings, shall keep secret the testimony of witnesses and all other matters occurring at, or directly connected with, a meeting of the grand jury." The article contains a few specific exceptions, none of which appear to be applicable to the present case. The Louisiana Supreme Court has, however, held that grand jury testimony may nonetheless be disclosed to a criminal defendant under certain circumstances:

In some situations justice may require that discrete segments of grand jury transcripts be divulged for use in subsequent proceedings. Thus a trial court may act upon a specific request stated with particularity and review grand jury transcripts in camera to determine if information contained therein is favorable to the accused and material to guilt or punishment. The party seeking disclosure bears the burden to show a compelling necessity for breaking the indispensable secrecy of grand jury proceedings. He must show that, without the material, his case would be greatly prejudiced or that an injustice would be done. If allowed, disclosure must be closely confined to the limited portion of the material for which there is particularized need. In any event, disclosure is left to the sound discretion of the trial court whose ruling will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion.[7]

Thus, before the Court can disclose any portion of the grand jury testimony to Petitioner, it must find that there is a compelling necessity for the disclosure and that, in the absence of the disclosure, Petitioner would be greatly prejudiced. The Court finds that disclosure is warranted.

II. The Merits of Disclosure

In assessing the merits of disclosure, the Court must necessarily discuss the evidence that formed the basis of Petitioner's conviction.

Petitioner was convicted of the murder of Wayne Palmer. The evidence at trial demonstrated that, on the day of the shooting, Palmer traveled to the Jefferson Place apartment complex with his girlfriend Michelle Temple. Upon arriving at the complex, Palmer approached two individuals, Sherman Moses and Troy McCloud, seeking to purchase a quantity of crack cocaine. Neither Moses nor McCloud had any crack for sale, but Moses led Palmer to another group of men. One of the men in the group indicated that he had some crack for sale. Palmer then accompanied several individuals into an alley to consummate the sale. A few minutes later, Palmer ...


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