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Dixon v. Houk

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 10, 2013

Archie DIXON, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Marc C. HOUK, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

Argued: Jan. 17, 2013.

Editorial Note:

This opinion is published in the advance sheet at this citation, Dixon v. Houk, 731 F.3d 539, was withdrawn because it was amended and superseded. See 2013 WL 6508807.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Toledo. No. 05-01290-James S. Gwin, District Judge.

COUNSEL

ARGUED:

Michael J. Benza, LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL J. BENZA, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for Appellant.

Thomas E. Madden, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Michael J. Benza, LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL J. BENZA, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Lawrence J. Whitney, Akron, Ohio, for Appellant.

Thomas E. Madden, Alexandra T. Schimmer, David M. Lieberman, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: MERRITT, SILER, and COLE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Twenty years ago, Archie Dixon and his accomplice brutally attacked Christopher Hammer and buried him alive. Dixon was convicted of aggravated murder, robbery, kidnaping, and forgery, and the state trial court sentenced him to death. He sought to vacate his conviction and sentence, asserting that his confession was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights and alleging numerous errors in his trial. We ruled that his confession was coerced, deeming his remaining claims regarding effectiveness of trial counsel, the instructions to the jury, and the exclusion of certain mitigating evidence pretermitted. On review, the Supreme Court reversed our ruling, see Bobby v. Dixon, 132 S.Ct. 26 (2011), and we must now review his remaining claims for ineffective assistance of counsel, improper jury instruction, and the exclusion of certain mitigating evidence at his penalty hearing. For the following reasons, we AFFIRM the district court's ruling and DENY Dixon's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

I.

Dixon and his accomplice, Timothy Hoffner, were friends with Hammer. In 1993, Dixon and Hoffner beat Hammer, tied him to a bed, stole the contents of his wallet and his automobile, and then drove him into a remote area and buried him alive. One month into the ensuing investigation, Hoffner led police to Hammer's body and Dixon provided a tape-recorded account of the kidnaping, robbery, and murder.

Dixon was indicted for aggravated murder, kidnaping, and aggravated robbery. At trial, the defense presented no evidence and cross-examined only three of the prosecution's 15 witnesses. The jury convicted Dixon on all charges and recommended the death penalty, which the court imposed. Dixon appealed his conviction to the Ohio Court of Appeals and, while that appeal was pending, he filed a post-conviction petition with the trial court, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. The latter was denied, and Dixon appealed that decision to the Ohio Court of Appeals. The Ohio Court of Appeals consolidated Dixon's direct appeal and post-conviction appeal and affirmed his conviction. He then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which also affirmed. State v. Dixon, 805 N.E.2d 1042, 1063 (Ohio 2004).

Dixon proceeded to file a federal habeas petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, improper jury instructions, improper exclusion of mitigating evidence at sentencing, and a violation of his Miranda rights.[1] The district court denied the petition, and Dixon appeals.

II.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), a habeas corpus application which includes a claim that was previously adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings will be denied unless the state court decision was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to the state courts. Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011). This standard is "difficult to meet, " "highly deferential, " and "demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the ...


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