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Lacey v. Cain

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 25, 2018

NAMICHA LACEY #310652
v.
N. BURL CAIN, WARDEN

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has filed a Memorandum in Opposition to Petitioner's application. There is no need for oral argument or for an evidentiary hearing.

         Petitioner Namicha Lacey challenges his 2008 conviction and sentence entered in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana, on one count of simple robbery, as enhanced by a multiple offender adjudication. Petitioner contends that (1) he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney labored under a conflict of interest that resulted in his failure to effectively cross-examine and impeach one of the State's witnesses, (2) the prosecution failed to disclose impeachment evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), (3) he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial attorney failed to request a mistrial after the State belatedly disclosed impeachment evidence that had been withheld from the defense, (4) his right to due process was violated on direct appeal when the Louisiana appellate courts mis-applied controlling principles of law in addressing his conflict of interest claim.

         A review of the record reflects that Petitioner was charged by Felony Bill of Information with one count of simple robbery of a Popeyes restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On the morning of trial, May 12, 2008, the Bill of Information was amended, without objection, to reflect that the victim was one of the cashiers at the Popeyes establishment, Latonya Bindon. In addition, on the morning of trial, the prosecution disclosed to the defense that Ms. Bindon had a prior felony conviction for forgery. Upon the conclusion of the jury trial, Petitioner was convicted as charged.

         After trial, on or about August 8, 2008, Petitioner's public defender moved to withdraw from representation in the case, asserting that she had recently discovered that she had previously represented Ms. Bindon several years earlier in connection with an unrelated criminal prosecution. The Motion to Withdraw was granted by the trial judge, and another attorney was appointed to represent Petitioner.

         A Motion for New Trial was thereafter filed on Petitioner's behalf on January 26, 2009, seeking to overturn the trial proceedings because of the purported conflict of interest, and an evidentiary hearing was held thereon on February 26, 2009. Based upon the testimony and argument adduced at the hearing, the Motion for New Trial was granted by the trial judge. Notwithstanding, the State thereafter pursued supervisory review in connection with that determination and, pursuant to a Ruling of the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit dated July 31, 2009, the appellate court reversed the decision of the trial court.

         Upon remand to the trial court, Petitioner was thereafter sentenced as a fourth felony offender to sixty-four years in confinement, without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

         Petitioner appealed, asserting a counseled claim that the Motion for New Trial should have been granted based upon the existence of a conflict of interest that resulted in actual prejudice to Petitioner and a pro se claim that Petitioner was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel at trial because of his attorney's failure to effectively impeach and/or challenge the credibility of Latonya Bindon based upon her prior conviction.[1] On June 29, 2011, the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. See State v. Lacey, 2011 WL 3658407 (La.App. 1 Cir. June 29, 2008). Petitioner thereafter filed an application for supervisory review in the Louisiana Supreme Court, which Court denied review without comment on April 27, 2012. See State ex rel. Lacey v. State, 86 So.3d 621 (La. 2012). Upon the failure of Petitioner to thereafter file an application for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, his conviction and sentence became final on July 26, 2012 upon expiration of the ninety-day period allowed for him to do so. See Roberts v. Cockrell, 319 F.3d 690, 694 (5th Cir. 2003) (recognizing that a conviction becomes final for federal purposes after the 90-day period allowed for a petitioner to proceed in the United States Supreme Court if he has not pursued such relief).

         On or about June 27, 2012, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in the state trial court, wherein he asserted the claims that (1) the State withheld impeachment evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, supra, (2) he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney failed to request a mistrial based on the State's failure to produce Brady material, and (3) his right to due process was denied on direct appeal when the appellate court failed to follow “the controlling principle(s) of law” in connection with his claim regarding a conflict of interest on the part of his trial attorney. The State filed Procedural Objections in response to Petitioner's PCR application and, pursuant to Ruling dated April 18, 2013, the trial court accepted a Recommendation issued by the state court Commissioner on October 11, 2012 and denied Petitioner's PCR application. Petitioner then filed, on or about May 15, 2013, an application for supervisory review before the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit. That Court denied review, without comment, on July 15, 2013. See State v. Lacey, 2013 WL 12120729 ((La.App. 1 Cir. July 15, 2013). Petitioner also filed a subsequent timely application for further review before the Louisiana Supreme Court, which Court denied review, again without comment, on March 14, 2014. See State ex rel. Lacey v. State, 134 So.3d 1190 (La. 2014).

         Finally, on or about February 12, 2015, Petitioner filed his federal habeas corpus application before this Court. As discussed hereafter, the Court concludes that Petitioner's application should be dismissed, in part as procedurally defaulted and in part as being without merit.

         I. Factual Summary

         The following factual summary is taken from the opinion of the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit:

On the evening of December 14, 2007, Latonya Bindon was working as a cashier at the Popeyes restaurant on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when she observed the defendant, a regular patron at the restaurant, arrive. The defendant initially went to use the restroom facility. He later walked up to the counter and asked to purchase an order of mashed potatoes. Bindon rang up the food item and opened the register to complete the transaction. The defendant rushed behind the counter, pushed Bindon aside, removed the money from the cash register, and fled. Aldreka Brown, another Popeyes employee, was mopping the lobby when the incident occurred. She observed the entire incident. According to Brown, the defendant first attempted to leave through the door on the right side of the restaurant, but it was locked, so he exited through the opposite door.
Bindon and Brown both recognized the defendant as a regular patron of the restaurant and successfully picked him out of a photographic lineup as the individual who robbed Bindon. On December 16, 2007, the defendant was arrested after he returned to the Popeyes restaurant to use the restroom.
During the trial, Bindon and Brown both identified the defendant, in open court, as the individual who committed the robbery.

State v. Lacey, supra, 2011 WL 3658407 at *2.

         Based upon the evidence and testimony elicited at trial, the jury found Petitioner ...


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