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Haller v. Warden London Correctional Institution

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 10, 2017

RONALD HALLER, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, LONDON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Terence P. Kemp United States Magistrate Judge

         JUDGE MICHAEL H. WATSON Magistrate Judge Kemp

         Petitioner, Ronald Haller, an inmate at London Correctional Institution (“LoCI”), filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. This matter is before the Court on the petition (Doc. 2), the respondent's return of writ (Doc. 15), the petitioner's traverse (Doc. 19), the amended petition (Doc. 20), and the respondent's supplemental return of writ (Doc. 22). Petitioner has not filed a supplemental traverse and the time for doing so has expired. Thus, the petition is ripe for decision. For the foregoing reasons, it will be recommended that the petition be denied.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         The facts of the case are summarized by the Allen County, Ohio, Court of Appeals:

This matter stems from a series of burglaries that occurred at five separate residences in Allen County between November 2008 and May 2010. Each burglary was committed by an individual named Benny Woolwine (“Woolwine”). The first burglary occurred on November 5, 2008 at a residence on Ottawa Road (“Ottawa Burglary”). The second burglary occurred on August 26, 2009 at a residence on Highland Lakes Drive (“Highland Burglary”). The first two burglaries were committed when the residents were away and resulted in the theft of guns and other items from the residences. The third burglary occurred on December 14, 2009 at a residence on Amherst Road (“Amherst Burglary”). The fourth burglary occurred on May 5, 2010 at a residence on Gomer Road (“Gomer Burglary”). The fifth burglary occurred on May 19, 2010 at a residence on Kissing Hollow Drive (“Kissing Hollow Burglary”). The last three burglaries were committed when someone other than an accomplice was present in the residence. On each occasion, Woolwine held an individual at gunpoint, bound the individual's hands and feet, and proceeded to steal various items from the residence. In July 2010, law enforcement arrested Woolwine in connection with the foregoing burglaries. Eventually, Woolwine confessed that he committed the burglaries and that Haller had aided and/or abetted him in each of the burglaries.

State of Ohio v. Haller, 982 N.E.2d 111, 114 (Allen Co. App. 2012). The factual narratives set out by the state court are presumed to be correct. 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(1).

         On October 14, 2010, Mr. Haller was indicted by the Allen County grand jury on a fifteen-count indictment and charged with: three counts of complicity to commit aggravated burglary, each with firearm specifications; three counts of complicity to commit abduction, each with firearm specifications; one count of kidnaping with a firearm specification; two counts of complicity to commit burglary; two counts of complicity to commit grand theft auto; and one count of receiving stolen property. (Doc. 16, Ex. 1). The case was tried before a jury. After the State rested its case, the court dismissed the kidnaping count. The jury found Mr. Haller guilty on the remaining fourteen charges. Trial Transcript (hereinafter “Transcript at .”) at 642, 644; Doc. 16, Ex. 3-4. Mr. Haller was sentenced to an aggregate term of thirty-one years in prison. Doc. 16, Ex. 5.

         Mr. Haller, through counsel, filed a timely appeal of the convictions and sentence to the Third District Court of Appeals (Ex. 6) setting forth the following assignments of error:

Assignment of Error No. I
The trial court erred by entering a judgment of conviction as to counts XI and XII (burglary) as felonies of the second degree, and sentencing accordingly, as the verdict forms were sufficient as to each only for the lesser offenses of burglary, felonies of the fourth degree.
Assignment of Error No. II
Mr. Haller was deprived of his constitutional rights to trial by jury, notice, due process, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt when the trial court refused to merge counts XI, XII, and XV together and counts XIII and XIV together as allied offenses of similar import.
Assignment of Error No. III
The trial court erred by not declaring R.C. §2941.25 unconstitutional and void for vagueness, as a result of which the trial court should have merged all allied offenses.
Assignment of Error No. IV
The trial court erred by imposing multiple sentences for the same act, in violation of R.C. §2941.25 and of the double jeopardy clauses of the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution.
Assignment of Error No. V
The trial court erred in instructing the jury on complicity.
Assignment of Error No. VI
Mr. Haller was denied the effective assistance of counsel in that counsel failed to object to misleading and incomplete jury instructions as to complicity.
Assignment of Error No. VII
The convictions were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Doc. 16, Ex. 7. The trial court's judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part. Id., Ex. 11; State v. Haller, 982 N.E.2d 111 (Allen Co. App. 2012). The court of appeals held that the verdict forms for complicity to commit burglary were not sufficient to convict for second degree felonies but should have resulted in a conviction for fourth degree felonies. The court also held that the conviction for complicity to commit grand theft auto was allied with the conviction for receiving stolen property, so the case was remanded to the common pleas court for resentencing on those counts. Id. On remand, Mr. Haller was again sentenced to 31 years in prison. Id., Ex. 19.

         On November 15, 2012, Mr. Haller filed a motion for the court of appeals to reconsider its decision, arguing that two of the convictions for complicity to commit aggravated burglary and the conviction for complicity to commit abduction, as well as the accompanying firearm specifications for each of those convictions, were against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id., Ex. 12. He also filed a motion to certify a conflict between the decision in his case and the decisions in a number of other Ohio appellate courts. Id., Ex. 14. On December 11, 2012, the court of appeals denied both of those motions. Id, Ex. 15.

         Mr. Haller, through counsel, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio, raising the following propositions of law:

I. The convictions for Counts VIII, IX, and X were against the manifest weight of the evidence [in relation to same convictions referenced in the appellate court brief].
II. The trial court erred in instructing the jury on complicity.
III. Mr. Haller was denied the effective assistance of counsel in that counsel failed to object to misleading and incomplete jury instructions as to complicity.
IV. The trial court erred by imposing multiple sentences for the same act, in violation of R.C. §2941.25 and of the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution.
V. Mr. Haller was deprived of his constitutional rights to trial by jury, notice, due process, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt when the trial court refused to merge Counts XI, XII, and XV together and Counts XII and XIV together as allied offenses of similar import.
VI. The trial court erred by not declaring R.C. §2941.25 unconstitutional and void for vagueness, as a result of which the trial court should have merged all allied offenses.

Doc. 16, Ex. 17. The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal and dismissed the case on March 27, 2013. Id., Ex. 18.

         On January 9, 2014, Mr. Haller filed, in the state trial court, a pro se motion for leave to file a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Doc. 16, Ex. 20. The new information consisted of an unsigned affidavit from Tammy Jones, who had testified at the trial. She claimed that she was never asked at trial whether Mr. Haller was involved in the burglaries, and that if she had been asked her answer would have been that he was not. Id., Ex. A. On August 19, 2014, the trial court overruled Mr. Haller's motion for leave to file a new trial motion. Doc. 16, Ex. 28. The court held that the newly discovered evidence did not fulfil the requirements to grant a new trial, and that Mr. Haller had “failed to establish a reason why he was unavoidably prevented from acquiring” the new information in a timely manner. Id. at p. 2-3. Mr. Haller filed a pro se appeal of the denial of this motion to the Third District Court of Appeals (Doc. 16, Ex. 23) followed by a “motion to fore go [sic] filing merit brief” (Id., Ex. 24). The court of appeals dismissed that appeal on April 24, 2014. Id., Ex. 25.

         On February 18, 2014, Mr. Haller filed a second pro se motion for leave to file a delayed motion for a new trial. Doc. 16, Ex. 26. This motion was based on an affidavit from a fellow prisoner who stated that Mr. Haller's co-defendant, Benny Woolwine, had confessed to him that he had falsely implicated Mr. Haller in the crimes. Id., Ex. A. On August 19, 2014, the trial court denied that motion as well. Doc. 16, Ex. 28. Mr. Haller moved for the court to reconsider (Id., Ex. 29), but it appears that before the court ruled on the motion to reconsider he appealed the decision (Id., Ex. 30). The Court of Appeals dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because the date of the judgment entry of conviction was incorrect and the appeal was not timely filed. Id., Ex. 31. Mr. Haller filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. Id., Ex. 32-33.

         Mr. Haller filed a third pro se motion for a new trial on December 1, 2014, based on the purported newly discovered evidence referenced in his second motion for leave to file a motion for a new trial. Doc. 16, Ex. 34. On December 29, 2014, the trial court denied the motion. Id., Ex. 37. Mr. Haller appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his new trial motion. Id., Ex. 38-39. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court, reasoning that the appeal was barred by res judicata, and because the proffered testimony, even if admissible, was impeaching rather than exculpatory, and due to the other evidence available to the jury, there was no strong probability of a different outcome. Id., Ex. 42.

         On July 1, 2015, Mr. Haller filed a pro se appeal of that judgment to the Ohio Supreme Court, raising the following propositions of law:

I. Where the trial court deprive [sic] the accused the right to secure testimony in his favor, the accused [sic] right to compulsory process is violated.
II. A claim of actual innocence require [sic] the reviewing court to determine whether in light of the new evidence, it is more likely than not that, if granted a new trial, no reasonable juror would vote to convict.

Doc. 16, Ex. 44. The Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction of the appeal. State of Ohio v. Haller, Case No. 2015-1098 (S.Ct. of Ohio Sept. 30, 2015).

         Mr. Haller filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus relief with this Court on April 25, 2014, the grounds of which will be discussed below. (Doc. 2). Although the case was initially transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo because the conviction occurred in the Northern District, that order was later vacated. (Doc. 7-8) . Respondent filed a return of writ on September 16, 2015 and Mr. Haller filed his traverse on February 11, 2016. (Doc. 16, 19). He then moved to amend his habeas petition to include an additional ground for relief, and he was granted leave to do so. (Doc. 21). Respondent filed a timely supplemental return of writ (Doc. 22). Mr. Haller has not filed a supplemental traverse. The petition for writ of habeas corpus is now ripe for decision.

         II. Legal Standard

         The provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub.L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (“AEDPA”) govern the scope of this Court's review. See Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 791 (2001); Wilson v. Parker, 515 F.3d 682, 691 (6th Cir.2008). AEDPA imposes a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ” Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997), and “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt, ” Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24, (2002) (per curiam).

         When the claims presented in a habeas corpus petition have been presented to and decided by the state courts, a federal habeas court may not grant relief unless the state court's decision was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence that was presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(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 proceeding

         In applying this statute, the Supreme Court has held that “[t]he focus... is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable... an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.” To obtain habeas corpus relief, a petitioner must show the state court's decision was “so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Bobby v. Dixon, __ U.S.__, __, 132 S.Ct. 26, 27 (2011), quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101-103 (2011). This bar is “difficult to meet” because “habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. at 102 (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, n. 50 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)). In short, “[a] ...


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