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Jones v. Warden, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility

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

January 10, 2018

DELSHJUAN JONES, a.k.a. Delshaun Jones, Petitioner,




         Petitioner, a state prisoner, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the Court on the Petition, Respondent's Return of Writ, Petitioner's Traverse, and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         The Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas summarized the facts of the case as follows:

On March 8, 2014 an incident involving a stabbing occurred at Schrock Tavern. The victim Samuel Lacy, a security guard at the Schrock Tavern claimed that he was stabbed by a person who he had recognized from the tavern before and knew as a rapper. Ultimately, the police were able to get the defendant's name. Det. Brian Wildman created a six pack photo array that included the defendant. After he interviewed the defendant at the hospital he had Officer Gregory Potter serve as the blind administrator for the array. This interview was audio taped. . . . For the identification Officer Potter followed the procedure he was trained as the blind administrator. Mr. Lacy identified photo number four which was the defendant, indicating I think that's him.
Thereafter, the defendant was arrested and taken to Columbus Police Headquarters where he was interrogated. In reviewing the rights waiver with the defendant, he admitted to consuming alcohol at 6:30 pm the night before and taking Percocet, 15 mg. between 11:30 pm to 12:00 am. The waiver was signed at 5:54 am. After the defendant had reviewed the rights waiver with the officer he indicated he understood his rights and signed the acknowledgment. He then talked with the officer providing some incriminating statements.

Entry (Doc. 6-1, PAGEID ##123-124). Petitioner was indicted by the January 10, 2014, term of the Franklin County grand jury on one count of felonious assault in violation of O.R.C. § 2903.11. (Id. at PAGEID #46). After the trial court's denial of Petitioner's motions to suppress evidence, Petitioner entered a no contest plea. (Id. at PAGEID #150). On November 21, 2014, the trial court imposed a sentence of seven years of incarceration plus three years of post-release control. (Id. at PAGEID ##170-171). Represented by new counsel, Petitioner pursued a timely appeal. He raised the following assignments of error:

[I.] The trial court erred when it overruled defendant's Motion to Suppress Identification.
[II.] The trial court erred when it overruled the defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements.
[III.] The trial court abused its discretion when it submitted a judgment entry that did not accurately reflect what occurred at the plea hearing.

State v. Jones, No. 14AP-1050, 2015 WL 7902800, at *1 (Ohio App. 10th Dist. Dec. 3, 2015). On December 3, 2015, the appellate court sustained Petitioner's third assignment of error, as the parties agreed “that the judgment entry signed by the trial court judge is incorrect when it states that Delshjaun Jones was convicted following a guilty plea” and remanded the case to the trial court to journalize a nunc pro tunc entry reflecting that Petitioner was found guilty following a plea of “no contest.” Id. The appellate court otherwise affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Id. On May 4, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction of the appeal. State v. Jones, 145 Ohio St.3d 1458 (2016). On December 11, 2015, the trial court issued the Amended Judgment Entry. (Id. at PAGEID #316).

         On March 6, 2017, Petitioner filed this pro se § 2254 Petition.[1] He asserts that he was denied a fair trial due to admission of identification testimony obtained through the use of an unduly suggestive photo array conducted in violation of state law (claim one); and that his statements were admitted in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966) (claim two). Respondent contends that Petitioner's claims lack merit.

         II. Standard of Review

         Petitioner seeks habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) sets forth standards governing this Court's review of state-court determinations. The United State Supreme Court described AEDPA as “a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court” and emphasized that courts must not “lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the ‘extreme malfunction' for which federal habeas relief is the remedy.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)); see also Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (AEDPA imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state court rulings and demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt).

         The factual findings of the state appellate court are presumed to be correct. Section 2254(e)(1) provides as follows:

In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.

         “Under AEDPA, a writ of habeas corpus should 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.” Coley v. Bagley, 706 F.3d 741, 748 (6th Cir.) (citing Slagle v. Bagley, 457 F.3d 501, 513 (6th Cir. 2006)), cert. denied sub. nom Coley v. Robinson, 134 S.Ct. 513 (2013); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) (a petitioner must show that the state court relied on an “unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding”). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explained these standards as follows:

A state court's decision is “contrary to” Supreme Court precedent if (1) “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law[, ]” or (2) “the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives” at a different result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405[] (2000). A state court's decision is an “unreasonable application” under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) if it “identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular ... case” or either unreasonably extends or unreasonably refuses to extend a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a new context. Id. at 407[].

Coley, 706 F.3d at 748-49. The burden of satisfying the standards set forth in § 2254 rests with the petitioner. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S.170, 181 (2011).

         “In order for a federal court to find a state court's application of [Supreme Court precedent] unreasonable, . . . [t]he state court's application must have been objectively unreasonable, ” not merely “incorrect or erroneous.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21, (2003) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76 (2003); Williams, 529. U.S. at 409); see also Harrington, 562 U.S. at 778 (“[a] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision”)(quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). In considering claims of “unreasonable application” under § 2254(d)(1), courts must focus on the reasonableness of the result, not on the reasonableness of the state court's analysis. Holder v. Palmer, 588 F.3d 328, 341 (6th Cir. 2009) (“‘[O]ur focus on the ‘unreasonable application' test under Section 2254(d) should be on the ultimate legal conclusion that the state court reached and not whether the state court considered and discussed every angle of the evidence'”) (quoting Neal v. Puckett, 286 F.3d 230, 246 (5th Cir. 2002) (en banc), cert. denied sub. nom. Neal v. Epps, 537 U.S. 1104 (2003)); see also Nicely v. Mills, 521 Fed.Appx. 398, 403 (6th Cir. 2013) (considering evidence in the state court record that was “not expressly considered by the state court in its opinion” to evaluate the reasonableness of state court's decision). Relatedly, in evaluating the reasonableness of a state court's ultimate legal conclusion under § 2254(d)(1), a court must review the state court's decision based solely on the record that was before it at the time it rendered its decision. Pinholster, 563 U.S. at 181. Put simply, “review under § 2254(d)(1) focuses on what a state court knew and did.” Id. at 182.

         A. Claim One

         In claim one, Petitioner asserts that police failed to follow the procedures required under state law when obtaining a photo identification of him from the alleged victim Samuel Lacy, resulting in an unduly suggestive identification. According to Petitioner, Lacy's identification of him was unreliable, as Lacy had little to no opportunity to view his assailant at the time of the offense, paid limited attention, provided a vague description of the perpetrator to police, and was uncertain of his identification of Petitioner. The state appellate court rejected this claim as follows:

The trial court . . . overruled a motion to suppress identification and a motion to suppress statements. The motions were overruled following an evidentiary hearing, which revealed that someone stabbed or slashed Samuel Lacy, seriously injuring Lacy's face. Lacy felt he knew the identity of his assailant, a young man called “Deli” who came into the Schrock Tavern where Lacy worked. Columbus police officers who investigated the assault concluded that the assailant was Delshjaun Jones and prepared a photo array.
The [] issue is whether the identification of Jones as the assailant by Samuel Lacy should have been suppressed as evidence. The CD of the interview of Lacy by police detectives and of the presentation of the photo array to Lacy for him to identify his assailant is consistent with the trial court's overruling of the motion to suppress. Lacy was clearly certain that he knew his assailant from the assailant's frequent visits to the Schrock Tavern. Lacy recognized the nickname “Deli” as applying to his assailant.
Lacy identified two photos of the six in the array as pertinent to the investigation. The photo in the slot marked “6” he identified as being a friend of the assailant. The photo in the slot number “4” he identified as being a photo of the assailant. The procedure was not suggestive and therefore has [sic] not the basis for suppressing the identification testimony had this been a trial.
The first assignment of error is overruled.

State v. Jones, 2015 WL 7902800, at *1-2.

         To the extent that Petitioner raises a claim regarding the alleged violation of state law, his claim fails to provide a basis for relief. Federal courts can grant habeas corpus relief only if the petitioner is confined in violation of the United States Constitution. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); e.g., Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010). “[I]t is not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state court determinations on state law questions. In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991).

         However, identification testimony based upon a pre-trial procedure that is so “impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification” violates a criminal defendant's right to due process. Thigpen v. Cory, 804 F.2d 893, 895 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 384 (1968)). “It is the likelihood of misidentification which violates a defendant's right to due process.” Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 198 (1972). The Court first must determine whether the pre-trial identification procedure employed was unduly suggestive. Ledbetter v. Edwards, 35 F.3d 1062, 1070-71 (6th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1145 (1995). If so, the Court must then consider the totality of the circumstances in order to determine whether the identification is nevertheless reliable. Id. at 1070 (citing Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. at 199-200; United States v. Hill, 967 F.2d 226, 230 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 964 (1992); Thigpen, 804 F.2d at 895). In making this determination, the Court must consider the following five factors:

(1) the opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness's degree of attention at the time of observation; (3) the accuracy of the witness's prior description of the criminal; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness when confronting the ...

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