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Miller v. Noble

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Cincinnati

August 3, 2018

IAN MILLER, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY NOBLE, Warden, London Correctional Institution Respondent.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          SUSAN J. DLOTT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This habeas corpus case, brought pro se by Petitioner Ian Miller, is before the Court for consideration of Petitioner's Objections (ECF No. 14) to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations which recommended dismissal of the Petition with prejudice (“Report, ECF No. 11).

         As required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) the Court has reviewed de novo every part of the Report to which objection has been made. Based on that review, the Court makes the following rulings.

         Ground One: Unconstitutionality of the Felony Murder Rule

         In his First Ground for Relief, Petitioner argues that he was unconstitutionally convicted of murder under the felony murder rule which allowed the State to prove only the mens rea element of the underlying felony (felonious assault which requires that the offender have acted knowingly) instead of the mens rea - purposely -- required for a straight murder conviction (Traverse, ECF No. 9, PageID 1195).

         The First District Court of Appeals decided this claim on the merits on direct appeal. Instead of presenting the same argument in this Court, Petitioner argued in his Traverse that the trial judge should have given jury instructions on the lesser included offenses of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter (Traverse, ECF No. 9, PageID 1194-99). The Magistrate Judge found that this claim was procedurally defaulted because it was not presented on direct appeal (Report, ECF No. 11, PageID 1243-46).

         In his Objections, Petitioner argues that his claim in Ground One is not that the trial judge should have given the lesser-included instruction, but that “the Trial Court abused its discretion when it failed to view the evidence to make a determination if a lesser included offense instruction was warranted.” (Objections, ECF No. 14, PageID 1263). Petitioner concedes that this claim also was not raised on direct appeal, but asserts that failure is excused by “Appellate Counsel's ignorance or oversight of the [relevant] Ohio Supreme Court rulings[.]” Id. at PageID 1264, citing State v. Franklin, 97 Ohio St.3d 1, 2002-Ohio-5034 (2002);State v. Shane, 63 Ohio St.3d 630 (1992); and State v. Wilkins, 64 Ohio St. 2d 382 (1980).

         In order to rely on ineffective assistance of appellate counsel to excuse failure to present a claim on direct appeal, a habeas petitioner must first present the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim to the state courts in the manner those courts have prescribed. Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446 (2000). Petitioner concedes that when he filed his Application for Reopening his direct appeal under Ohio R. App. P. 26(B), he did not include this claim. He seeks to excuse that omission by claiming that he reasonably believed the claims he did raise were strong enough that the First District Court of Appeals would appoint him counsel who would then raise all the issues he has brought to this Court in habeas (Objections, ECF No. 14, PageID 1255-56).

         Nothing in the text of Ohio R. App. P. 26(B) or the case law interpreting it would give rise to a reasonable belief that the process would work the way Petitioner supposed it would. Under that Rule, if an appellant presents a genuine issue as to whether he has a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, then the appeals court reopens the appeal and an attorney is appointed if the appellant is indigent. State v. Spivey, 84 Ohio St.3d 24 (1998). There is nothing in the rule that speaks to having an appointed attorney broaden the 26(B) application or withholding ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims until that happens.

         The First District decided the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims Petitioner actually made on the merits and found they were without merit. State v. Miller, Case No. C-140101 (1st Dist. Hamilton Jan. 3, 2016) (unreported; copy at State Court Record, ECF No. 4, PageID 122, et seq.) Ohio law does not permit a second 26(B) application to raise claims omitted from the first such application. State v. Richardson, 74 Ohio St.3d 235 (1996). Indeed, “there is no right to file successive applications for reopening” under App. R. 26(B). State v. Twyford, 106 Ohio St.3d 176, 2005-Ohio-4380, ¶ 16 (2005), quoting State v. Williams, 99 Ohio St.3d 179, 2003-Ohio-3079, ¶ 12 Once the issue of ineffective assistance has been raised and adjudicated, res judicata bars its relitigation, State v. Cheren, 73 Ohio St.3d 137 (1995), following State v. Perry, 10 Ohio St. 2d 175 (1967).

         When a state court decides on the merits a federal constitutional claim later presented to a federal habeas court, the federal court must defer to the state court decision unless that decision is contrary to or an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established precedent of the United States Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 785 (2011); Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 140 (2005); Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693- 94 (2002); Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). The First District decided the merits of Petitioner's actually presented ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims and its decision is not an objectively unreasonable application of the relevant Supreme Court precedent, Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Therefore, Petitioner cannot rely on ineffective assistance of appellate counsel to excuse his failure to present his First Ground for Relief to the Ohio courts on direct appeal and Ground One is therefore procedurally defaulted.

         Ground Two: Denial of Equal Protection

         In his Second Ground for Relief, Miller argues his convictions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment1 because the felony murder statute and the involuntary manslaughter statute prohibit the same conduct. The First District Decided this claim was without merit because the two criminal statutes in question do not prohibit identical conduct or require identical proof. State v. Miller, Case No. C-140101 (1st Dist. Hamilton May 22, 2015) (unreported; copy at State Court Record, ECF No. 4, PageID 81). In his Traverse, Petitioner conceded this was a correct reading of those two statutes, but argued the First District's decision nonetheless violated Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970).

         The Report concluded neither these two cases nor other authority requires a trial judge “to make a reasonable view of the evidence in the light most favorable to the Petitioner” in deciding whether to instruct on a lesser included offense. It also concluded this claim was barred by procedural ...


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