United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
RONNIE HOWARD SR.
ORDER AND REASONS
Ronnie Howard Sr. filed a pro se petition pursuant
to 28 U.S.C § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus. Rec.
Doc. 1. In a Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge
Wilkinson recommended that the petition be dismissed with
prejudice. See Rec. Doc. 13. Petitioner timely filed
objections to the latter Recommendations, as well as a
“supplemental objection”. See Rec. Doc.
reasons below, it is ORDERED that the Report
and Recommendation are ADOPTED as the
opinion of the court, overruling Petitioner's objections,
and dismissing the instant habeas corpus petition.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary
in Angola, Louisiana. On December 14, 2011, Petitioner was
indicted by a Terrebonne Parish grand jury and charged with
aggravated rape of a juvenile male, J.V. See St.
Rec. Vol. 2 of 3, Indictment, 12/14/11; Grand Jury Return
15, 2014, a jury found Petitioner guilty of aggravated rape
of a juvenile male. See St. Rec. Vol. 2 of 3, Trial
Minutes; Jury Verdict; Trial Transcript. Petitioner filed a
timely motion for a new trial based on alleged problems with
jurors. See St. Rec. Vol. 2 of 3, Appeal Brief,
2014-KA-1048, 9/19/14. It was denied on June 12, 2014.
See Id. The court sentenced Petitioner to life in
prison without benefits of parole, probation, or suspension
of sentence. See Id.
appealed his sentence to the Louisiana First Circuit,
asserting that the victim's mother should not have been
exempted from the witness sequestration order because of the
victim's age at the time of trial. See Id. On March
9, 2015, the First Circuit affirmed the conviction and
sentence, finding no merit in the claim. See State v.
Howard, No. 2014-KA-1048, 2015 WL 1019513, at *1
(La.App. 1st Cir. Mar. 9, 2015)(unpublished); St. Rec. Vol 2.
of 3. 1st Cir. Opinion, 2014-KA-1048, 3/9/15.
April 8, 2016, The Louisiana Supreme Court denied
Petitioner's related writ application, without stated
reasons. State v. Howard, 191 So.3d. 583
(La. 2016); St. Rec. Vol. 3 of 3, La. S.Ct. Order,
2015-KH-0761, 4/8/16; St. Rec. Vol 2 of 3, La. S.Ct. Letter,
2015-KH-761, 4/16/15 (showing postmark 4/14/15). 90 days
after the Louisiana Supreme Court denial, on July 8, 2016,
Petitioner's conviction became final due to
Petitioner's failure to file a timely writ application
with the United States Supreme Court. See Ott v.
Johnson, 192 F.3d 510, 513 (5th Cir. 1999) (holding that
the period for filling certiorari with the United States
Supreme Court is considered in the finality determination
under 28 U.S.C. 2244(1)(1)(A)), cert. denied. 529.
529 U.S. 1099(2000); U.S. Sup. Ct. Rule 13(1).
State Collateral Review
April 19, 2016, Petitioner requested post-conviction relief
from the state trial court, asserting that: (1) he received
ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel
failed to (a) develop a pretrial strategy, (b) challenge the
indictment and raise the issue of untimely prosecution, (c)
obtain a medical analysis to refute the charges, and (d)
effectively cross-examine the State's witness; (2) he was
denied effective assistance of counsel when appellate counsel
failed to (a) assert ineffective assistance of trial counsel
and (b) challenge the insufficiency of evidence; (3) the
state trial court erred in exempting the victim's mother
from the witness sequestration order; (4) the state trial
court erred in denying the motion for mistrial based on the
multiple juror issues; (5) the evidence at trial was
insufficient; (6) the state trial court erred in denying the
motion for new trial based on the juror issues; (7) the state
trial court was without jurisdiction to commence trial
because the statutory prescriptive period had expired.
See Rec. Doc. 13.
22, 2016, the state trial court denied the application.
See St. Rec. Vol. 2 of 3, Trial Court Judgment,
6/22/16. Regarding Petitioner's first two claims, the
state trial court found that under Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 688 (1984) and related state law,
there was no ineffective assistance of counsel at trial or on
appeal. St. Rec. Vol. 2 of 3, Trial Court Judgment, 6/22/16;
Reasons for Judgment, 6/22/16. The court declined to consider
the third claim regarding the sequestration order exemption
because the substance of the claim had been fully litigated
on direct appeal, citing La. Code Crim. P. art. 930.4(A).
See Rec. Doc. 13. The court found review of the
fourth, fifth and sixth claims barred under La. Code Crim. P.
art. 930.4(C) because Petitioner failed to assert the claims
on direct appeal. See Rec. Doc. 13. The court also
found that the seventh claim of prescription was barred from
post-conviction review as untimely under La. Code Crim. P.
art. 930.4(B). Rec. Doc. 13.
Petition for Federal Habeas Corpus Relief
December 9, 2016 Petitioner filed the instant petition for
federal habeas corpus relief. See Rec. Doc. 1.
Petitioner's habeas allegations are as follows:
1) He received ineffective assistance of counsel when his
trial counsel failed to consult with him, effectively
investigate the facts and present a viable defense in light
of insufficient evidence;
2) He was denied effective assistance of counsel when
appellate counsel failed to assert claims regarding
insufficient evidence, time-barred prosecution and
prejudicial juror problems;
3) The state trial court erred in exempting the victim's
mother from the witness sequestration order;
4) The state trial court erred in denying the motion for
mistrial based on multiple juror issues;
5) The evidence at trial was insufficient;
6) The state trial court erred in denying the motion for new
trial based on the juror issues; and
7) The state trial court erred in commencing trial after the
limitations period expired. See Rec. Doc. 1.
State filed a response in opposition to the Petition, arguing
that Petitioner failed to establish entitlement to relief and
that the claims are barred from review in this court as
procedurally defaulted in part because they were dismissed
based on independent and adequate state law grounds.
See Rec. Doc. 7; Rec. Doc. 13.
24, 2017, this Court granted Petitioner's motion to stay
proceedings to allow him to completely exhaust state court
review. Rec. Doc. No. 10, 2. At the time he filed this
federal petition, his post-conviction writ application was
pending before the Louisiana Supreme Court. See Rec. Doc. 13.
After receiving the Louisiana Supreme Court's November