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Whitman v. Gray

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

January 8, 2020

RICHARD STANTON WHITMAN, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID W. GRAY, Warden, Respondent.

          JAMES S. GWIN JUDGE.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR DISCOVERY

          Thomas M. Parker United States Magistrate Judge.

         On December 5, 2019, Petitioner Richard Stanton Whitman (“Whitman”) moved for discovery and requested counsel pursuant to Rule 6 of the Rules Governing §2254 cases. ECF Doc. 7. Whitman asserts that the state never responded to discovery he requested during his state court proceedings. He seeks an order requiring the production of specific items he did not receive. ECF Doc. 7 at 3. He also seeks information from his trial counsel and appellate counsel regarding their reasoning for decisions made during trial and his appeal. Similarly, he seeks discovery regarding decisions and statements made by state court prosecutors. ECF Doc. 7 at 8. Whitman requests counsel to assist with discovery and, although not requested in the body of his motion, his caption also requests an evidentiary hearing.

         Because Whitman fails to explain how the requested discovery, which was not a part of the state court record, would advance his habeas claims, his motion for discovery must be DENIED, without prejudice to refiling.

         Rule 6 of the Rules Governing § 2254 cases provides, in part:

(a) Leave of court required. A judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery. If necessary for effective discovery, the judge must appoint an attorney for a petitioner who qualifies to have counsel appointed under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A.
(b) Requesting discovery. A party requesting discovery must provide reasons for the request. The request must also include any proposed interrogatories and requests for admission, and must specify any requested documents.

         “A habeas petitioner, unlike the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course.” Stojetz v. Ishee, 892 F.3d 175, 207, (6th Cir. 2018) quoting Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904, 117 S.Ct. 1793, 138 L.Ed.2d 97 (1997). “A district court may, however, permit discovery in a habeas proceeding if the ‘petitioner presents specific allegations showing reason to believe that the facts, if fully developed, may lead the district court to believe that federal habeas relief is appropriate.'” Stojetz, 892 F.3d at 207, quoting Johnson v. Mitchell, 585 F.3d 923, 934 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lott v. Coyle, 261 F.3d 594, 602 (6th Cir. 2001)).

         Here, Whitman claims that discovery is “vital to providing a properly presented for Habeas Corpus.” Broadly, he states that his discovery requests relate to the following claims:

Petitioner has claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and Brady violations by the prosecution concerning exculpatory evidence being withheld by the State of Ohio and this evidence not diligently being pursued by trial counsel. This evidence goes toward proving that petitioners' assailant had planned his attack and waited until petitioners' niece had left the home before entering the home and attacking the plaintiff. It also goes to prove that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to pursue the evidence diligently.

ECF Doc. 7 at 2. However, Whitman does not explain how the requested discovery would actually support these claims.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) governs habeas corpus petitions filed after April 24, 1996. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-27 (1997); Murphy v. Ohio, 551 F.3d 485, 493 (6th Cir. 2009). AEDPA imposes a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ” Lindh, 521 U.S. at 333 n.7, and “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). When the claims presented in a habeas corpus petition have been presented to and decided on the merits by the state courts, a federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the petitioner proves that the state court decision:

(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 ...

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