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Francois v. Vannoy

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

January 30, 2016

AARON FRANCOIS LA. DOC #603619
v.
DARRELL VANNOY

         SECTION P

          DOHERTY JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pro se petitioner Aaron Francois, an inmate in the custody of Louisiana's Department of Corrections, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254 on March 14, 2016. Petitioner attacks his 2012 conviction for second degree murder and the life sentence imposed thereon by the Fifteenth Judicial District Court, Lafayette Parish. This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636 and the standing orders of the Court.

         Statement of the Case

         On February 23, 2009, a grand jury indicted the petitioner on charges of first degree murder and armed robbery, violations of La. R.S. 14:30 and 14:64. [Rec. Doc. 11, p.11] Trial was severed from the co-defendant on November 9, 2009. Id. On State's motion, the trial court amended the indictment on January 20, 2011, to second degree murder, a violation of La. R.S. 14:30:1(a)(2) and armed robbery. Id. On August 15, 2012, petitioner was convicted of armed robbery and second-degree felony murder and on September 13, 2012, was sentenced to life without parole on the felony murder charge. Id. at 12. He appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that the evidence failed to establish that the murder and the underlying felony of armed robbery formed part of a continuous transaction without a significant break in the chain of events. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction on the second-degree murder charge and life sentence on June 5, 2013.[1] State of Louisiana v. Aaron Francois, 114 So.3d 678');">114 So.3d 678 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/5/13), 12-1438.

         On some unspecified date, petitioner applied for writs of certiorari in the Louisiana Supreme Court. On January 27, 2013 his writ application was denied without comments. State of Louisiana v. Aaron Francois, 2013-KO-1605 (La. 01/27/14), 130 So.3d 958. He did not apply for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. [Doc. 1, ¶9(h)]

         On or about November 3, 2014, he filed an application for post-conviction relief in the Fifteenth Judicial District Court, raising the following claims: (1) Petitioner's Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was denied his right to testify; (2) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel due to counsel not allowing him to testify in his own defense at trial; and (3) Indigent petitioner was denied his constitutional rights to appellate review and to any free copy(s) of the records to have an adequate opportunity to fairly present his constitutional claims on post conviction relief. [Rec. Doc. 11, pp. 6-27] Plaintiff raised the following claims, “from his lay memory, ” in connection with Claim 3: “(1) Trial counsel was ineffective when he failed to object to the state where it was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he petitioner had the specific intent to kill or to commit serious bodily injury. Petitioner did not have the requisite specific intent to be convicted of second degree murder in violation of his constitutional Sixth Amendment right; (2) Trial counsel was ineffective when he failed to object to the jury selection voir dire by the state without given a racial neutral reason for exclusion of black jurors in violation of his constitutional sixth amendment right; and (3) Petitioner is of the opinion as far as he can remember is that other crucial ineffective assistance of counsel errors were made by his counsel but that he needs a refreshing memory of the requested documents records in order to sufficient and adequately fairly present those claims before the Court that violated his Louisiana and United States Constitutional rights to a fair trial.” [Id. at 20] On or about November 18, 2014, his application was denied. [Rec. Doc. 1, ¶11;Rec. Doc. 11, pp. 2-3] The Trial Court did order the Clerk of Court to provide petitioner with a copy of the Indictment/Bill of Information and his sentencing minutes, free of charge. Id.

         On or about December 12, 2014, Petitioner sought writs in the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, Docket Number 01305-KH, raising the same issues raised in his application for post conviction relief. [Rec. Doc. 12, pp. 10-45] On April 27, 2015, the Third Circuit denied petitioner's writ finding there was “no error in the trial court's November 18, 2014 ruling which denied Relator's November 2014 application for post-conviction relief.” [Rec. Doc. 12, p. 3]

         On or about May 18, 2015, petitioner sought writs in the Louisiana Supreme Court, Docket Number 15-KH-1005 raising the same issues enumerated above. [Rec. Doc. 13, pp. 2-17] On February 19, 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs holding that petitioner failed to show he received ineffective assistance of counsel and, as to remaining claims, that he failed to satisfy his post-conviction burden of proof. [Rec. Doc. 12, pp. 4-5]

         Petitioner filed the instant petition on March 14, 2016. Here he claims:

(1) The evidence failed to establish that the murder and the underlying felony of armed robbery formed part of a continuous transaction without a significant break in the chain of events, denial of his constitutional right to testify;
(2) Ineffective assistance of counsel;
(3) Denial of his constitutional right to appellate review and to free copy of the records to have opportunity to fairly ...

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