United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
A. DOUGHTY JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hayes United States Magistrate Judge
Matt Banks, a prisoner in the custody of Louisiana39;s
Department of Corrections, filed the instant Petition for
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 on August 21, 2014. [doc. # 1]. Petitioner attacks his
two second degree murder convictions and the two life
sentences imposed by the Fourth Judicial District Court,
Ouachita Parish. This matter was remanded to the District
Court from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth
Circuit, and referred to the undersigned to conduct an
evidentiary hearing, and for review, report, and
recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 636 and the standing orders of the Court.
underlying facts in this case were set forth by the Louisiana
Second Circuit Court of Appeal as follows:
Shortly after 11:00 p.m. on June 29, 2002, firefighters found
the bodies of Irma Williams and her brother, Roy Tugler,
inside their burning home at 1606 Hwy. 139 in Monroe,
Louisiana. Each body revealed blunt force trauma. The body of
Williams was partially burned and smelled of accelerant.
Williams and Banks were involved in a violent relationship
for over a decade. They had recently broken up, and she was
dating another man.
Authorities interviewed Banks on the day after the murders.
His truck and home were searched and items removed for
analysis. Also occurring on the day after this horrific event
was the discovery of an iron plumbing pipe at the crime
scene. Banks is a plumber. Human hairs were embedded in one
end of the pipe along with what was believed to be blood.
None of the physical evidence linked Banks to the crime
scene. The case lay dormant for seven years.
In 2009, a former deputy revealed that a neighbor of
Banks39;s might have relevant information. The neighbor
stated that on the night of the murders, he heard Banks
talking loudly with Williams and then later saw Banks walking
away from the neighborhood. After further investigation,
Banks was arrested and indicted for two counts of second
degree murder. He was convicted as charged.
State v. Banks, 3d 56');">86 So.3d 56, 57 (La.App. 2 Cir.
trial court ordered Petitioner to serve two consecutive life
imprisonment sentences at hard labor without benefit of
probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. [doc. # 9-3, p.
22-25]. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed
Petitioner39;s convictions and sentences on January 25,
2012. Banks, 86 So.3d at 66. The Louisiana Supreme
Court denied Petitioner39;s subsequent application for writ
of certiorari on May 25, 2012. State v. Banks, 90
So.3d 410 (La. 2012).
December 18, 2012, Petitioner filed a pro se
application for post-conviction relief in the trial court.
[doc. # 1-2, 31');">p. 31]. There, Petitioner claimed that his
counsel was ineffective for several reasons: (1) failure to
investigate and interview witnesses; (2) failure to inform
petitioner of plea deals; (3) failure to object to gruesome
photographs; (4) failure to object to prosecutorial
misconduct; (5) failure to object to a jury instruction; and
(6) failure to seek independent scientific testing of the
evidence. Id. The district court denied the
application on May 14, 2013. [doc. # 1-3, p. 34]. The Second
Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the denial on August 22,
2013. Id. at 54. The Louisiana Supreme Court, on May
2, 2014, denied Petitioner39;s writ application.
Id. at 257.
filed the instant Petition on August 21, 2014. [doc. # 1]. He
raised two assignments of error: insufficient evidence and
ineffective assistance of counsel for the six reasons set
forth above. Id. On March 12, 2015, this Court
entered judgment [doc. #13], denying and dismissing with
prejudice Petitioner39;s petition, and denying
Plaintiff39;s application for a certificate of
appealability [doc. #14].
March 21, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit entered an Order granting Petitioner a
certificate of appealability on the sole issue of ineffective
assistance of counsel for failure to inform Petitioner of
plea deals. Banks v. Cain, 5th Cir. Case No.
15-30258, doc. #00513431904. On September 27, 2017, the Fifth
Circuit vacated the District Court39;s judgment on the
above-referenced issue and remanded for further proceedings,
holding that “the record before us does not
conclusively indicate whether Banks39;s trial counsel
actually communicated either of the two plea offers to Banks.
. . . [W]e conclude that an evidentiary hearing on the issue
is warranted.” Banks v. Cain, 5th Cir. Case
No. 15-30258, docs. #00514173097 and #00514173098.
the sole remaining claim before this court is
Petitioner39;s ineffective assistance of counsel claim for
failure to inform Petitioner of plea offers.
March 8, 2018, the undersigned conducted an evidentiary
hearing, with testimony from the Petitioner and the two
prosecutors from his state court trial.