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Johnson v. Cain

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

June 14, 2019

DEANDRE JOHNSON
v.
N. BURL CAIN, WARDEN

         Sec P

          DRELL JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          JOSEPH H.L. PEREZ-MONTES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Procedural History

         Johnson filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, contesting his conviction on one count of manslaughter in the Louisiana 12th Judicial District Court in Avoyelles Parish. (Docs. 1, 10, 28). Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment as a habitual offender. (Doc. 1).

         In State v. Johnson, 2006-1263 (La.App. 3d Cir. 2/7/07), 948 So.2d 1229, 1230-31, writs den., 2007-0467, 2007-0509 (La. 10/12/07), 965 So.2d 398-99, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal made the following findings of facts in this case:

The victim, Willous Johnson, went to Defendant's apartment, located in Hessmer, Louisiana, around eleven o'clock at night on December 2, 2004. An altercation occurred between the victim and Defendant at the door when the victim tried to force his way into the apartment. Defendant stabbed the victim in the neck with a kitchen knife. The victim left the doorway, but collapsed and died in the parking lot of the apartment complex. Defendant put the victim's body into the trunk of his live-in girlfriend's car and with her and two children he drove to Baton Rouge where he disposed of the body in a ditch along a country road. The next morning, he sent his girlfriend home. When she arrived back in Hessmer, she contacted the police and led them to the body. Defendant fled to California. He was apprehended ten months later.

         A jury convicted Johnson of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. See Johnson, 948 So.3d at 1230. On direct appeal of his conviction, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the conviction, finding the State had failed to prove Johnson had the specific intent to kill the victim, who had been trying to force his way into Johnson's house. See Johnson, 948 So.3d at 1237-38. The Court of Appeal found “the jury abused its vast discretion in finding that Defendant committed second degree murder, ” and entered a conviction on the lesser and included offense of manslaughter. See Johnson, 948 So.3d at 1238.

         On remand for resentencing, the District Attorney filed a habitual offender bill and Johnson was re-sentenced to life imprisonment as a fourth felony offender. See State v. Johnson, 2008-0494 (La.App. 3d Cir. 11/5/08), 996 So. 32d 1235, 1236, writ den., 2008-2844 (La. 9/25/09), 18 So.3d 84.

         Johnson raises the following grounds for habeas relief (Docs. 1, 10, 28):

1. The evidence was insufficient to support the amended verdict of manslaughter.
2. Johnson had ineffective assistance of counsel because: (1) counsel failed to object when the prosecution presented a different coroner to testify about the victim's autopsy instead of the coroner who authored the report; (2) counsel failed to present a forensic pathologist to rebut the coroner's testimony; (3) counsel erroneously stipulated to the quantity of drugs and alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in the victim's system without further investigation; (4) counsel failed to investigate the crime scene and thereafter subpoena an expert in the field of decomposition and blood splatter; (5) counsel failed to investigate and call Kevin Jacob as a witness to corroborate the defense that the victim had a gun when Johnson attempted to force his way inside the apartment; and (6) counsel told the jury during his opening statement that petitioner was going to testify, but then failed to place him on the stand.
3. The trial court denied Johnson due process when it refused to grant his request for funding to hire expert witnesses to explain the damage decomposition and insect infestation on the victim's body, and the blood splatter.

         Respondent answered the petition and admits Johnson has exhausted his administrative remedies and that his petition is timely ...


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