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Wilson v. Cain

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

March 2, 2017

RANDY WILSON, Petitioner
v.
N BURL CAIN, Respondent

          FOOTE JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. § 2254) filed by pro se Petitioner Randy Wilson (“Wilson”) (#456403) on October 11, 2013. (Doc. 1). Wilson attacks his 2008 second degree murder conviction.

         I. Background

         The Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal set forth the relevant facts of the case. On April 1, 2006, Wilson and Felton Dorsey (“Dorsey”), armed with a gun, forced their way into the home of Bobbie Prock (“Mrs. Prock”), tied her to a chair, and placed a blanket over her head. (Doc. 7-13, p. 221/229). They subsequently took numerous items from her home. (Id.). Prock's son, Joe Prock, arrived at the house soon after to check on his mother. (Id.). Joe Prock was bound and struck in the head with a gun handle numerous times, and died as a result of his injuries. (Id.). Wilson and Dorsey then set fire to Joe Prock's body and Mrs. Prock's house before fleeing. (Id.). Mrs. Prock was able to free herself and get out of the house. (Id.).

         On May 17, 2006, Wilson and Dorsey were charged by indictment with one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder. (Doc. 7- 13, pp. 220-21/229). The state pursued the death penalty. (Doc. 7-13, p. 221/229). However, pursuant to a plea agreement, Wilson pled guilty to one count of second degree murder, with a sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, in exchange for his testimony at the trial of Dorsey, his co-defendant. (Doc. 7-13, pp. 223-24/229). The Boykin guilty plea colloquy occurred on July 27, 2009, and Wilson reserved his right to appeal pursuant to State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La. 1976). (Doc. 7-13, p. 224/229).

         Wilson's appellate counsel filed an appellate brief pursuant to State v. Jyles, 704 So.2d 241 (La. 1997), finding no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal. (Doc. 7-13, p. 170/229). Wilson then filed a pro se supplemental brief, wherein he argued that his plea bargain was constitutionally infirm because the State did not perform its part of the bargain, and that the trial court had not properly ruled on his pre-trial motions to suppress his statements. (Doc. 7-13, p. 194/229). The Second Circuit affirmed Wilson's conviction and sentence, after finding no merit in his argument that his statement was not voluntary or that the State had breached the plea agreement. (Doc. 7-13, pp. 219, 228/229). Wilson sought a supervisory writ from the Louisiana Supreme Court which was denied without comment on May 4, 2012. (Doc. 7-14, p. 58/311).

         Wilson then filed an application for Post-Conviction Relief on August 13, 2012. (Doc. 7-14, p. 89/311). The First Judicial District Court denied the application on September 20, 2012, finding no merit in Wilson's arguments. (Doc. 7-14, p. 145/311). Wilson sought a supervisory writ from the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, which was denied on November 29, 2012. (Doc. 7-14, pp. 156, 160, 231/311). Wilson then took a supervisory writ to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which was denied without comment on July 31, 2013. (Doc. 7-14, pp. 233, 311/311).

         Wilson filed this writ for habeas corpus on October 11, 2013. (Doc. 1).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standard of review.

         An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall be considered only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, habeas relief is not available to a state prisoner with respect to a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in the 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 proceedings. Therefore, pure questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact are reviewed under Section 2254(d)(1), and questions of fact are reviewed under Section 2254(d)(2). See Martin v. Cain, 246 F.3d 471, 475-76 (5th Cir.), cert. den., 534 U.S. 885 (2001), and cases cited therein.

         A decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law “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.” Dowthitt v. Johnson, 230 F.3d 733, 740-41 (5th Cir.2000) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000)). “The ‘contrary to' requirement refers to holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of . . . [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Id. at 740. Under the “unreasonable application” clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ only if the state court “identifies the correct governing legal principle from . . . [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies the principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 741. Section 2254(d)(2) speaks to factual determinations made by the state courts. Federal courts presume such determinations to be correct; however, a petitioner can rebut this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. Petitioner's right to effective assistance of counsel was not violated.

         Wilson claims that his counsel was ineffective because counsel “misrepresent[ed] the strength of the State's case against him to induce Petitioner into entering a plea of guilty.” (Doc. 1, p. 25/34).

         Wilson alleges that his defense attorney, Joel Pearce (“Pearce”), failed to inform him of the State's evidence against him, thereby misrepresenting the strength of the State's case. Wilson states this caused him to enter into a plea agreement to testify against Dorsey, and to accept the sentence of life imprisonment without benefits. Wilson attached a newspaper article entitled “Judge recuses self from murder trial, ” regarding a Caddo District Judge's recusal from Wilson's murder trial due to an allegedly acrimonious relationship between himself and Pearce. (Doc. 1, p. 26/34). Wilson notes that his appellate counsel's brief mentioned the ex parte removal of Pearce as the second chair in Wilson's murder case, the trial judge's recusal, and the eventual reassignment of Pearce back to Wilson's murder case.

         Wilson raised this claim in his application for post-conviction relief, filed with the First Judicial District Court, and then urged in supervisory writs to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Defendant concedes this claim was exhausted in state courts.

         “An ineffective assistance of counsel claim presents a mixed question of law and fact.” Richards v. Quarterman, 566 F.3d 553, 561 (5th Cir. 2009). Therefore, the claim is analyzed under Section 2254(d)(1), and relief is not available unless the adjudication of the claim “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.” Additionally, “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct” and the petitioner “shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         To prevail on his claim, Wilson must prove two elements: that counsel's performance was deficient and that those deficiencies were prejudicial. The same two part standard found in Strickland v. Washington applies to challenges to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58 (1985). The first prong is satisfied by a showing that “counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. at 57 (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984)). To meet the second prong, “[t]he defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. at 59.

         Wilson has only made conclusory allegations that Pearce failed to inform him of the State's evidence against him, or misrepresented the State's case against him, thereby causing him to enter into a plea agreement with the State. Wilson cites to his appellate counsel's brief to note the ex parte removal of Pearce as second chair and his eventual reassignment following the trial judge's recusal. However, appellate counsel's brief was pursuant to State v. Jyles, 704 So.2d 241 (La. 1997), as appellate counsel assigned no errors due to a lack of non-frivolous issues that could be raised on appeal. (Doc. 7-13, p. 170/229). The brief noted that these issues were resolved before Wilson's guilty plea and stated that “any ...


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