282 F.3d 908 (6th Cir. 2002), 00-3688, Coleman v. DeWitt

Docket Nº:00-3688.
Citation:282 F.3d 908
Party Name:Wayne COLEMAN, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Don DeWITT, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:March 12, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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282 F.3d 908 (6th Cir. 2002)

Wayne COLEMAN, Petitioner-Appellant,


Don DeWITT, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 00-3688.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 12, 2002

Argued Oct. 24, 2001.

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Melynda W. Cook Reich (argued and briefed), Schad & Cook, Indian Springs, OH, for Appellant.

Jonathan R. Fulkerson (argued and briefed), Office of the Attorney General, Corrections Litigation Section, David M. Gormley (briefed), Office of the Attorney General of Ohio, Columbus, OH, for Appellee.

Wayne Coleman (briefed), Chillicothe, OH, pro se.

Before BOGGS and GILMAN, Circuit Judges; and QUIST, District Judge. [*]


BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Wayne Coleman appeals the district court's denial of his petition for habeas corpus. In May 1997, Coleman was convicted by an Ohio state court of involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault, pursuant to a nolo contendere plea. Coleman had kicked Olivia Williams in the abdomen and otherwise had battered her. As a result of Coleman's violent actions, Williams suffered a miscarriage, leading to his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Coleman argues that the manslaughter conviction violated his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights under Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973), and its progeny because the Ohio involuntary manslaughter statute did not require proof of the miscarried fetus's viability for conviction. He also argues that his nine-year sentence for the involuntary manslaughter count constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court's denial of his petition for habeas corpus.


In the fall of 1996, Coleman was romantically involved with Olivia Williams. On October 4, 1996, Coleman, while physically abusing Williams, kicked her in the abdomen. At the time of the assault, Williams was pregnant, and Coleman's blow to Williams's abdomen caused her to miscarry.

Coleman was arrested five days later. On October 25, 1996, Coleman was indicted for felonious assault and involuntary manslaughter, pursuant to Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.04. The indictment alleged that

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Coleman committed involuntary manslaughter by "unlawfully terminat[ing] Olivia Williams' pregnancy, as a proximate result of ... committing a felony."

Coleman pled no contest to the involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault counts. Pursuant to his plea, the Ohio trial court sentenced him to nine years of imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter, to run concurrently with a seven-year sentence for felonious assault.

Coleman appealed his conviction to the Ohio Court of Appeals, arguing that Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.04, the basis for his involuntary manslaughter conviction, was unconstitutional because it did not require proof of the terminated fetus's viability. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, upholding the statute's constitutionality. Coleman then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals.

Coleman then filed a petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. There, Coleman argued that his conviction and sentence for involuntary manslaughter violated both his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The district court found both arguments without merit and denied Coleman's petition for habeas corpus.

Coleman now appeals the district court's denial of his petition.


In this case, our consideration of Coleman's petition for habeas corpus is limited by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Act prohibits federal courts from issuing a writ of habeas corpus with respect to any claim that was "adjudicated on the merits in the state court unless the adjudication of the claim 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." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (1). The Ohio courts, in this case, decided against Coleman all the issues that he currently raises. Thus, Section 2254(d) (1) applies.

Coleman argues that the state may not prohibit the termination of a pregnancy before the viability of the fetus because of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973). Accordingly, Coleman contends that his conviction for terminating Williams's pregnancy (even if as a result of committing a felony), without any proof of her fetus's viability, violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Also appealing his sentence, Coleman urges us in the alternative to hold that nine years for the manslaughter of a fetus is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. We address each of his arguments separately below.

A. Coleman's Substantive Due Process Claim

Coleman argues that his conviction for involuntary manslaughter pursuant to Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.04 is unconstitutional because it violated the substantive due process rights announced in Roe v. Wade and its progeny. The relevant section of the Ohio code provides as follows: "No person shall cause the death of another or the unlawful...

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