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Mammone v. Jenkins

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 18, 2019

James Mammone, Petitioner
v.
Charlotte Jenkins, Warden, Respondent

          ORDER

          JAMES G. CARR, SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a capital habeas case in which, on October 9, 2019, I entered judgment denying habeas relief and certified several claims for appeal. Mammone v. Jenkins, 2019 WL 5067866 (N.D. Ohio 2019).

         The petitioner, James Mammone, has since filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) as well as a second motion for a stay under Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). (Docs. 45, 46). The Warden opposes both motions (Docs. 47, 48), and petitioner has filed replies (Docs. 49, 50).

         For the following reasons, I deny the motions.

         A. Rule 59(e) Motion

         Mammone's motion to alter the judgment focuses on three claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel: 1) ineffective assistance at the guilt phase for failing to raise a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI); and ineffective assistance at sentencing for 2) failing to introduce evidence of Mammone's Autism Spectrum Disorder and 3) not adequately preparing two mitigation witnesses to testify effectively. (Doc. 46, PageID 11884-87).

         I held that Mammone had defaulted each of these claims by not raising them on direct appeal or in his postconviction petition. Mammone, supra, 2019 WL 5067866 at *34-36, 46-49, 51-52.

         Responding to Mammone's argument that I should excuse his defaults under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), and Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U.S. 413 (2013), I recognized that the Sixth Circuit had held that Martinez did not apply to Ohio habeas cases, but that it was an open question whether Trevino applied. Mammone, supra, 2019 WL 5067866 at *35. I therefore assumed, arguendo, that Trevino applied, but concluded that the defaults were not excusable because none of the defaulted Strickland claims was substantial. Id. at *36, 47-48, 51-52. Finally, I determined that the NGRI claim failed under de novo review. Id. at *36-39.

         The day before I issued my decision, however, the Sixth Circuit held in White v. Warden, Ross Corr. Inst., 940 F.3d 270 (6th Cir. 2019), that the rule of Trevino does apply to Ohio habeas cases. Relying on White, petitioner urges me to vacate the judgment and “order discovery and a hearing on his Martinez-Trevino procedural default argument.” (Doc. 46, PageID 11888).[1]

         Although a change in controlling law is a proper ground for seeking to alter or amend a judgment, petitioner's motion here has no merit. My decision assumed that Trevino applied to petitioner's case, but I found that petitioner could not excuse his defaults under the Trevino framework because his underlying ineffective-assistance claims were insubstantial. Nothing in White casts doubt on that conclusion.

         In any event, even assuming that petitioner could excuse his defaults under Trevino, that would not change the result here.

         First, I held that the ineffective-assistance claim predicated on counsels' failure to pursue an NGRI defense failed under de novo review. Mammone, supra, 2019 WL 5067866 at *36-39.

         Second, although I did not reach the merits of the other two ineffective-assistance claims at issue, I did find that they were not “substantial” for purposes of the Trevino rule. Id. at *47- 49, 51-52. I have since reviewed my decision to that effect, as well as the parties' briefs - which argued the merits of Mammone's claims. For the same reasons set forth in my decision denying the petition, I now conclude that Mammone's claims that trial counsel were ineffective for not introducing evidence of his Autism Spectrum Disorder, and for failing to prepare two mitigation witnesses to testify more effectively, also fail under de novo review.

         Because there is no merit to the underlying Strickland claims, there is no basis for granting petitioner the relief he seeks by way of the Rule 59 motion: discovery and a hearing to determine if I should excuse his defaults under Tr ...


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