581 F.3d 92 (3rd Cir. 2009), 06-9007, Lewis v. Horn
|Docket Nº:||06-9007, 06-9008.|
|Citation:||581 F.3d 92|
|Opinion Judge:||FISHER, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||Reginald S. LEWIS, Appellant, v. Commissioner Martin HORN, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; Connor Blaine, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford; Joseph P. Mazurkiewicz, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Rockview Martin Horn, Connor Blaine and Joseph P. Mazurkiewicz, Appellants.|
|Attorney:||Matthew C. Lawry, Billy H. Nolas (Argued), Defender Association of Philadelphia, Federal Capital Habeas Corpus Unit, Philadelphia, PA, for Reginald Lewis. Joshua S. Goldwert (Argued), Thomas W. Dolgenos, Ronald Eisenberg, Arnold H. Gordon, Lynne Abraham, Office of the District Attorney, Philadelp...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: SMITH, FISHER and VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||September 14, 2009|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit|
Argued Aug. 4, 2009.
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In this appeal, we are presented with the difficult task of considering a Pennsylvania death row inmate's challenges to his conviction and sentence, stemming from a trial that occurred over twenty-five years ago. Appellant Reginald Lewis filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court seeking relief from his judgment of conviction and sentence. The District Court denied Lewis relief from his conviction, rejecting his arguments that the Commonwealth's use of peremptory strikes violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), that his counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase of his trial, and that the Commonwealth suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). But the District Court was persuaded by Lewis's arguments that his counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance at the penalty
phase of his trial and therefore granted relief to Lewis from his death sentence. Because we conclude that the District Court committed several errors in its analysis of this claim, we will vacate its order granting sentencing relief, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We will affirm the District Court in all other respects.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. on November 21, 1982, Christopher Ellis was brutally stabbed nine times by a man wielding a butcher knife in the Oxford Bar, located on Oxford and Sixth Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The stabbing was observed by all of the patrons of the bar, including the group that accompanied Ellis to the bar to celebrate the birthday of one of the members. Following the incident, the police showed each of the witnesses a photo-array of eight pictures, one of which depicted Lewis, and each witness identified Lewis as the person who committed the murder. Subsequently, when the police arrested Lewis for shoplifting from a department store, he had assumed the name of Booker T. Beatty, Jr. While still in police custody on that charge, Lewis was arrested pursuant to an outstanding warrant and charged with the murder of Christopher Ellis.
A. Trial and Direct Appeal
Over the course of the trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, the prosecution produced six eye-witnesses who identified Lewis as the individual they had seen commit the murder. Each witness had been familiar with Lewis as a person who " hung around" the neighborhood. They all knew him by his first name only, " Reggie" or Reginald. There was also testimony that frequently Lewis was seen wearing clear lens, " schoolboy" glasses prior to the incident, similar to the glasses dropped by the assailant at the scene of the murder. One witness testified that immediately prior to the stabbing Lewis and Ellis were arguing over a five dollar debt Ellis allegedly owed Lewis. The bartender testified that the assailant was a previous customer at the bar and had a girlfriend named Stephanie, who was pregnant at the time and lived on the 1600 block of Marshall Street in Philadelphia. The Commonwealth produced Lewis's fiancée, Stephanie McCorey, who testified she was pregnant at the time of the incident and had previously resided at 1610 N. Marshall Street. The bartender also testified that Lewis approached him the next day and told him not to mention Lewis's name with regard to the incident. In defense, Lewis maintained he was in San Diego visiting his brother, Michael, at the time of the incident. In support of this claimed alibi defense, Lewis produced his brother and other family members to corroborate the story.
On August 1, 1983, the jury found Lewis guilty of first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime. During the penalty phase,1 the Commonwealth sought to establish the aggravating circumstance of " a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to the person," see 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 9711(d)(9), offering evidence of Lewis's 1973 aggravated assault conviction in Philadelphia, and his 1976 first-degree murder and felony assault convictions in Camden, New Jersey. Lewis in
turn testified in an attempt to downplay his culpability and minimize the violence of his prior convictions, and his counsel, in closing argument, emphasized Lewis's youth at the time of the prior offenses. After approximately one hour of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict, finding one aggravating circumstance and no mitigating circumstances, and sentencing Lewis to death on the first-degree murder conviction.
Lewis, represented by new counsel, filed a direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which, on December 22, 1989, affirmed his judgment of conviction and sentence. Commonwealth v. Lewis, 523 Pa. 466, 567 A.2d 1376 (1989)(Lewis I). In his direct appeal, Lewis raised a number of arguments, including a challenge to the Commonwealth's use of peremptory strikes during jury selection. Although Lewis did not cite Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), which the United States Supreme Court decided during the pendency of Lewis's direct appeal, he included a short argument in his brief under the heading " Defendant Was Denied His Constitutional Right To A Fair Trial By A Jury Of His Peers By The Improper Use of Peremptory Challenges By The Commonwealth," which stated the following:
" Appellant wishes to preserve this argument and alleges the Commonwealth unfairly and improperly used its peremptory challenges to exclude members of Appellant's race (Black) from the jury. Counsel requests this issue be remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine the validity of the assertion."
(App. at 1891.) In rejecting Lewis's Batson claim, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted Lewis's " failure to identify specific veniremen or specific parts of the record in support of his allegation," and reasoned that " absent a prima facie showing of improper use of peremptory challenges by the Commonwealth, this claim could not provide a basis ... to vacate the judgment of sentence." Lewis I, 567 A.2d at 1381 n. 3. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the remainder of Lewis's arguments, none of which is relevant to the current appeal.
B. State Post-Conviction Proceedings
On August 7, 1995, almost six years after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Lewis's conviction and sentence on direct appeal, Lewis filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 9541 et seq. 2 In this petition, Lewis argued that his counsel was ineffective at the guilt phase of his trial for failing to object during voir dire to what he alleged was the Commonwealth's discriminatory use of peremptory strikes. Additionally, Lewis argued that his counsel was ineffective at the penalty phase of his trial for conducting " no investigation geared toward the penalty hearing" and for presenting " no information regarding [his] mental illness." On November 20, 1995, counsel was appointed to represent Lewis in his PCRA proceeding, and on April 10, 1996, Lewis's counsel filed an amended PCRA petition, followed by a supplemental amended petition and memorandum of law filed on June 18, 1996. On January 15, 1997, the PCRA court issued a ten-day notice of dismissal
of Lewis's petition. In response, Lewis's current counsel, who had assumed representation of him, filed objections to the proposed dismissal. In Lewis's objections to the notice of dismissal, he expanded on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase, and he also argued that the Commonwealth violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), by not providing exculpatory evidence of certain bus tickets allegedly located in a briefcase he was carrying at the time of his arrest.
On February 7, 1997, the PCRA court denied Lewis's petition without conducting a hearing. Lewis appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, elaborating on the arguments he raised before the PCRA court and also adding to his arguments a claim that his trial counsel was ineffective at the guilt phase of his trial for failing to adequately prepare alibi witnesses and for failing to investigate a defense of self defense. On January 19, 2000, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Lewis's petition, holding: (1) the Batson claim was previously litigated on direct appeal and could not be reconsidered; (2) the ineffective assistance of counsel at the guilt phase claim was waived because it was raised for the first time on appeal from the PCRA court's dismissal of Lewis's petition; (3) the Brady claim failed because the bus...
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