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Womack v. State

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

January 30, 2019






         Randall Wayne Womack, Jr. (“Petitioner”) and three other men participated in a home invasion robbery of two victims. A Bossier Parish jury convicted Petitioner of armed robbery (10-2 vote) and attempted armed robbery (unanimous verdict). Petitioner was sentenced to 50 years for the armed robbery and 15 years (concurrent) for the attempted armed robbery. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal. State v. Womack, 109 So.3d 418 (La.App. 2d Cir 2013), writ denied, 123 So.3d 163 (La.). He also pursued claims in a state post-conviction application. He now presents those post-conviction claims in his federal habeas corpus petition. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that his petition be denied.

         Background Facts

         Jose and Orlando Tecciau worked for a veterinarian on his Holly Hills farm in Plain Dealing, and they rented a home on or near the farm. They were inside their home one evening when Petitioner and three other men-Dillon Murphy, Joshua Lopez, and David Weeks-arrived. Lopez waited in the car while Petitioner and the two other men armed themselves with weapons and entered the house. They kicked open a bedroom door, found the victims, and demanded money. Murphy grabbed a wallet from the dresser, and the men fled. Murphy and Lopez left in the vehicle, while Petitioner and Weeks fled on foot. The victims managed to fire a couple of shots at the fleeing robbers, but no one was hit.

         The victims called their employer, who lived nearby, and told him they had been robbed. The employer drove to the house, saw the robbers' vehicle, and followed it until the men abandoned it on a dead-end street. Police found a wallet in the center console of the vehicle; Petitioner's identification was inside the wallet.

         A motorist reported to a deputy that a man was walking on Old Plain Dealing Road and attempting to hitchhike. The officers spotted the hitchhiker, who turned out to be Petitioner, about half a mile from the victims' home. The officers caught Petitioner after a brief chase. They then drove Petitioner to the victims' home, where the victims identified Petitioner as one of the robbers.

         The other men were also caught. Murphy testified at trial. He described how the men, armed with a billy bat, sword, and pipe (all of which police found on the back floorboard of the abandoned car), traveled to the house and committed the crime. He said that Petitioner “held the Mexican up with the sword. . . I took the wallet off the dresser and took off running.” Lopez and Weeks also testified for the State.

         The victims, aided by an interpreter, gave their testimony. Jose testified that the wallet that was taken belonged to him; his brother Orlando's money had been hidden under a sofa. Petitioner, Jose testified, was holding a sword during the robbery. Jose said that he fired a .22 rifle once in the air as the robbers fled. Some of the robbers said there were multiple shots fired, and one said a bullet whizzed by his head. Orlando testified that he was in the same room when the man entered with weapons and demanded money, but they did not take any of his property. “I was trying to give them some money, but they - all they wanted to do was, I was sitting down and all they wanted to do was hit me, so I just tried to defend myself and pull my hands over my head.” He added that the men never actually struck him.

         Habeas Burden

         Each of Petitioner's habeas claims was adjudicated on the merits during the post-conviction process in state court. Habeas corpus relief is available with respect to a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in the state court only if the adjudication (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. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A state court's decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it relies on legal rules that directly conflict with prior holdings of the Supreme Court or if it reaches a different conclusion than the Supreme Court on materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1519-20 (2000). A state court makes an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law when it identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but applies it to the facts in a way that is not only incorrect but objectively unreasonable. Renico v. Lett, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862 (2010). When a state court has denied a claim on the merits, the AEDPA bars habeas relief unless the prisoner shows that the state court “erred so transparently that no fairminded jurist could agree with that court's decision.” Bobby v. Dixon, 132 S.Ct. 26, 27 (2011) (per curiam).

         Double Jeopardy

         Petitioner argued in his post-conviction application that his rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause were violated when he was punished for both armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, even though he committed only a single criminal act. The trial court denied the claim in a reasoned opinion that pointed out that Louisiana law allows an accused who commits separate and distinct offense during one criminal episode or transaction to be prosecuted for each offense without violating the principles of double jeopardy. The court reasoned that the armed robbery was completed when the wallet belonging to one victim was taken, and the attempted armed robbery was committed on the second victim, who was menaced but did not hand over any money. The two crimes had different victims. Accordingly, the court rejected the claim. Tr. 556-58.

         Petitioner filed a writ application with the state appellate court, which denied it in a summary opinion: “On the showing made, the writ is hereby denied.” Doc. 1, pg. 55. The Supreme Court of Louisiana also denied a writ application in a brief per curiam opinion that stated, with respect to this and some other claims, “Relator fails to satisfy his post-conviction burden of proof.” Doc. 1, pgs. 16-17.

         The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” The guarantee applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. It embodies three separate guarantees: “It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and against multiple punishments for the same offense.” Justices of Boston Mun. Court v. Lydon, 104 S.Ct. 1805, 1812 (1984). Petitioner's claim has to be made under the “multiple punishments for the same offense” protection, as the others do not apply.

         “With respect to cumulative sentences imposed in a single trial, the Double Jeopardy Clause does no more than prevent the sentencing court from prescribing greater punishment than the legislature intended.” Missouri v. Hunter, 103 S.Ct. 673, 678 (1983). The question of what punishments are constitutionally permissible turns on what punishment the legislature intended to be imposed. “Where [the legislature] intended. . . to impose multiple punishments, imposition of such sentence does not violate the Constitution.” Albernaz v. U.S., 101 S.Ct. 1137, 1145 (1980). And although the federal court will decide under federal law whether a double jeopardy violation has occurred, it must accept a state court's construction of its own statutes. Hunter, 103 S.Ct. at 679.

         Louisiana courts have held that an accused who commits separate and distinct offenses during the same criminal episode may be prosecuted and convicted for each offense without violating the principle of double jeopardy. Louisiana has not adopted a “same transaction” test that would prohibit prosecutions for different crimes committed during one continuing course of conduct. State v. Nichols, 337 So.2d 1074, 1078 (La. 1976); State v. Bridgewater, 726 So.2d 987, 991 (La.App. 5th Cir. 1998). Similarly, the Supreme Court has “disclaimed any intention of adopting a ‘same evidence' test” in double jeopardy cases. U ...

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