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Shoecraft v. Tim Shoop

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

January 15, 2020

TIM SHOOP, Warden, Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge.


          Michael R. Merz United States Magistrate Judge.

         Petitioner Mark Shoecraft brought this habeas corpus action pro se pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to obtain release from his conviction in the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, Ohio, on charges of murder, improper discharge of a firearm, felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon, aggravated trafficking in drugs, and having a weapon while under a disability (Petition, ECF No. 1, PageID 35).

         Upon transfer of this case from the Cincinnati location of Court, the undersigned ordered Respondent to file a Return of Writ and the State Court Record which was completed October 31, 2019 (ECF No. 7, 8). The Court then reminded Petitioner that his Reply to the Return was due to be filed by November 21, 2019 (Notice, ECF No. 9). Petitioner's time to reply, as twice extended, expired on January 2, 2020 (ECF No. 13). Shoecraft actually waited until January 6, 2020, to file his Reply (ECF No. 14, PageID 898) and did not obtain a further extension. Because the Reply was untimely filed, Shoecraft is not entitled to have it considered by the Court. In the interest of completeness, however, this Report reflects consideration of the Reply in the event the District Judge does not decide to strike it.

         Litigation History

         Shoecraft was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on February 13, 2017, in connection with the fatal shooting of Eric Raglin on the evening of January 31, 2017 (Indictment, State Court Record, ECF No. 7, PageID 69-70). Shoecraft waived trial by jury and the trial judge convicted him on all counts except for the charge of trafficking in cocaine. After merging some of the convictions under Ohio Revised Code § 2941.25, the trial judge sentenced Shoecraft to an aggregate sentence of forty years to life imprisonment.

         Shoecraft appealed raising five assignments of error, and the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, State v. Shoecraft, 2018-Ohio-3920 (Ohio App. 2d Dist. Sep. 28, 2018). The Second District granted Shoecraft leave to file a delayed application for reconsideration, but then denied substantive relief. Shoecraft sought and received permission to file a delayed appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio, but the delayed appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution. State v. Shoecraft, 156 Ohio St.3d 1411 (2019).

         On February 21, 2019, Shoecraft filed an Application for Reopening under Ohio R. App. P. 26(B), claiming his appellate attorney was ineffective for failing to claim his trial attorney was ineffective for not presenting a cultural expert. The Second District denied reopening and the supreme court declined appellate jurisdiction. State v. Shoecraft, 156 Ohio St.3d 1455 (2019).

         Prior to that, Shoecraft filed a petition for post-conviction relief under Ohio Revised Code § 2953.21, which was denied in August 2019. Petitioner took no appeal, but filed the instant habeas corpus petition August 19, 2019, pleading the following grounds for relief:

Ground One: Petitioner did not voluntarily waive his right to a jury trial in violation of his 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendment rights.
Supporting Facts: Petitioner submits that the records establishes [sic] that he did not waive his rights to a jury trial in a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary fashion, as petitioner was not sufficiently appraised [sic] of how his guilt could be decided.
Ground Two: The trial court erred by rejecting petitioner's affirmative defense of self-defense and defense of another, violating the 5th & 14th Amendments.
Supporting Facts: The records establishes [sic] that, at the time Raglin (victim) attempted to drive away with the drugs without paying, petitioner and his friend Glenn were standing along the driver's side of the car, petitioner argued at trial that he believed he and Glenn were in danger, and based upon Raglin's actions, petitioner was legally justified in shooting in self-defense.
Ground Three: The trial court erred in rejecting voluntary manslaughter an inferior degree of murder, violating the 5th, 14th, Amendment.
Supporting Facts: Petitioner submits that there was more than sufficient provocation to bring extreme stress involved in this case, and it was the trial court judge's ignorance of petitioner's race and environment that kept the judge/trier of fact from seeing the justification in the petitioner's actions.
Ground Four: The trial court committed plain error in sentencing petitioner on allied offenses.
Ground Five: The petitioner's conviction on the charge of felonious assault against Ms. Houchins was against both the sufficiency of the evidence, and against the manifest weight of the evidence, violating the 5th and 14th Amendments.
Supporting Facts: Petitioner had absolutely no intent to harm Ms. Houchins, and there was not testimony produced that suggested petitioner did, what could have happened in hind-sight and what did is completely different.
Ground Six: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment where counsel failed to request a cultural expert.
Supporting Facts: Because of the cultural differences between the judge and the parties involved, counsel was required to bring forth a witness in mitigation of sentence, and to aid the defense in establishing why petitioner felt threatened enough to shoot when a white surbanian [sic] might not.

(Petition, ECF No. 4, PageID 39-45.)


         Ground One: Involuntary Waiver of Jury Trial

         In his First Ground for Relief, Shoecraft claims his waiver of trial by jury was involuntary “because petitioner was not sufficiently appraised [sic] of how his guilt could be decided.” Shoecraft raised this as his first assignment of error on direct appeal and the Second District decided it on the merits, concluding that the requirements for a valid jury waiver contained in Ohio Revised Code § 2945.05 and Ohio R. Crim. P. 23(A) were satisfied.

         Shoecraft argued his first assignment of error under both Ohio and federal law, specifically citing the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and United States v. Martin, 704 F.2d 267 (6th Cir. 1983). The aspects of trial by jury of which he claims he was not sufficiently apprised are that with a trial by a jury, his guilt or innocence would be determined by twelve jurors who would have to decide unanimously that he was guilty, and that he could participate in the jury selection process (Appellant's Brief, State Court Record, ECF No. 7, PageID 115). He admits he was told that all issues in the case would be tried and decided by a judge. Id.

         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, 100 (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). Deference is also due under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) unless the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings. Although the Second District discussed this assignment of error in terms of the relevant Ohio statute and criminal rule, the federal question was presented to them and their opinion should be read to have decided that question.

         A state court decision can constitute an “adjudication on the merits” entitled to deference under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) even if the state court does not explicitly refer to the federal claim or to relevant federal case law. In ...

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