Boseman v. Bazzle, No. 08-7813 (4th Cir. 2/9/2010), 08-7813.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtAgee
PartiesMATTHEW BRIAN BOSEMAN, a/k/a Brian Boseman, Petitioner-Appellee, v. RICHARD E. BAZZLE, Warden, Perry Correctional Institution, Respondent-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 08-7813.,08-7813.
Decision Date09 February 2010

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MATTHEW BRIAN BOSEMAN, a/k/a Brian Boseman, Petitioner-Appellee,
RICHARD E. BAZZLE, Warden, Perry Correctional Institution, Respondent-Appellant.
No. 08-7813.
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
Argued: December 3, 2009.
Decided: February 9, 2010.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Rock Hill. David C. Norton, Chief District Judge, (0:07-cv-01344-DCN).

ARGUED: William Edgar Salter, III, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellant.

Neal Lawrence Walters, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Henry D. McMaster, Attorney General, John W. McIntosh, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia, South Carolina for Appellant.

Christopher Norfleet, Third Year Law Student, Jamila Willis, Third Year Law Student, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, SHEDD, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

Reversed and remanded by unpublished opinion. Judge Agee wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wilkinson and Judge Shedd joined.

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Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.

AGEE, Circuit Judge.

Matthew Brian Boseman is a state inmate in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery. He filed this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District of South Carolina against Richard E. Bazzle, Warden of the Perry Correctional Institute ("the Warden"). The district court conditionally granted Boseman's habeas petition, holding that the state post-conviction relief court ("the PCR court") unreasonably applied the Supreme Court's decision in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and unreasonably interpreted the facts surrounding counsel's failure to present evidence of an alibi. The Warden appeals the issuance of the writ to Boseman. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand the judgment of the district court.


The district court detailed the salient facts supporting Boseman's conviction:

Petitioner was indicted during the February 1996 term of the Court of General Sessions on charges of murder and armed robbery. Petitioner's first trial began on November 20, 1996, but ended in a mistrial due to juror misconduct. Petitioner's second trial began on April 7, 1997, during which he was represented by attorneys Douglas Strickler and Cynthia Durham. The jury found petitioner guilty on both charges, and the trial judge imposed a sentence of life imprisonment

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for the murder conviction and a consecutive term of twenty years imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction.

Petitioner was convicted of robbing and murdering Oscar Griffis, a Domino's Pizza delivery driver. The evidence presented in the prosecution's case-in-chief established an uncontroverted timeline showing that the relevant events occurred between 9:15pm and 10:00pm on October 31, 1995. Domino's Pizza received a telephone call between 9:15pm and 9:17pm, requesting a delivery to a residence at 3701 Trotter Road in Columbia, South Carolina. The caller identified himself as "Albert" and provided a false phone number. Griffis made his first delivery without incident between 9:15pm and 9:30pm. He then apparently proceeded to 3701 Trotter Road, where he was robbed and shot once in the chest. Between 9:30pm and 10:00pm, Griffis arrived at a nearby convenience store (driving himself there) and collapsed on the floor. The clerk and others in the store quickly called 911. The time of Griffis's arrival is evidenced by the store's video surveillance camera, which recorded Griffis arriving at the store shortly after 9:45pm. Brian Goff, a Columbia Police officer, said he was dispatched to the store between 9:30pm and 10:00pm and was the first emergency responder on the scene. EMS arrived at exactly 10:00pm and immediately transported Griffis to the hospital (departing the convenience store for the hospital at 10:04pm). Griffis died three days later. . . .

The Richland County Sheriff's Department's investigation revealed the call to Domino's Pizza came from a house owned by Jesse Shelton, who lived there with his three sons, Jason, Terah, and fifteen-yearold M.S. Based on the phone records, the Sheriff's Department obtained and executed a search warrant on the Shelton home. Investigators found burned remnants of pizza boxes and checks made payable to Domino's Pizza in the backyard. Thereafter, M.S. and petitioner (who is not related to the Sheltons but lived nearby) were arrested and indicted on charges of robbing and murdering Griffis. Before petitioner's trial, M.S. pleaded guilty to both charges as a juvenile in the Richland County Family Court, receiving a six-year sentence with eligibility for early release with good behavior.

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The state's theory of the case was that petitioner planned and orchestrated the entire event and that M.S. was something of an unknowing accomplice. The state argued that petitioner—and not any of the Sheltons—made the phone call from the Shelton house to Domino's Pizza that night and chose to lure the driver to 3701 Trotter Road because he was familiar with the area. According to the state, after eating dinner at and generally hanging around the Shelton house on the evening of the crime, petitioner recruited M.S. to tag along on a robbery. The two went to the scene of the "ambush" where they crossed paths with a group of trick-or-treaters, none of whom actually saw petitioner but one identified petitioner at trial based on the sound of his voice. The state asserted that M.S. did not know petitioner was carrying a gun. When Griffis arrived at the Trotter Road address, the state argued petitioner and M.S. robbed him, and that petitioner shot Griffis once in the chest. Thereafter, according to the state, petitioner and M.S. returned to the Shelton house where petitioner informed M.S.'s brother Terah that he should watch the 11:00pm news. Petitioner carried checks and pizza boxes around the house, describing the items to others as "loot," and later burned his "loot" in the Sheltons' backyard. The state thus argued that petitioner purposefully set out to rob the Domino's Pizza driver, lured the driver to the scene of the crime using the Sheltons' phone, shot the driver, bragged about his crime at the Shelton house, and disposed of the evidence there. The state conceded there was no physical evidence connecting petitioner to the crime.

Deloris Matthews was working at the convenience center when Griffis came in and collapsed on the floor. As he laid on the floor, Griffis told her that he was shot by two black individuals, who were wearing ski masks, had big eyes, and one of them had "funny," "frizzed up" hair. Griffis also said the perpetrators were "skinnier" or "smaller" than Griffis, who Matthews described as a "burly" man. Griffis was six feet tall and weighed 240 pounds. Matthews also testified at trial that Griffis said one of the perpetrators was five feet, nine inches tall and the other was about six feet tall, although those details were noticeably absent from the statement she gave to police only three hours after Griffis arrived at the

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store. Petitioner is six feet, one inches tall,; Terah Shelton was five feet, ten inches tall and weighed 235 pounds; Jason Shelton was five feet, seven inches tall and 140 pounds; and M.S. was about five feet, five inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.

At trial, M.S. was the prosecution's primary witness against petitioner. He testified that he and his brothers "hung out" with petitioner (known around the neighborhood as "Method Man") almost every day. According to M.S., between 5:30pm and 7:30pm on the night of the crime, petitioner was at the Shelton house playing games—and M.S.'s father, his two brothers (Terah and Jason), and Jason's girlfriend were in the house as well. M.S. stayed at the Shelton house until petitioner approached him and told M.S. he was going out on a "lick," which is slang for a robbery. M.S. recounted that petitioner had left the house sometime after dinner and returned later, at which time he approached M.S. about the robbery. According to M.S., nobody else heard petitioner make that statement nor was anyone else involved. Following that conversation, he and petitioner walked from the Shelton residence through a path in the woods until they came to Trotter Road. M.S. was familiar with the path because he had used it before and knew that the wooded area at the end of the path was dark. Petitioner and M.S. crouched down at the end of the path overlooking Trotter Road.

M.S. stated that petitioner then told him they were going to rob a pizza delivery driver. M.S. testified that he did not personally make the phone call nor have any idea what petitioner had done at the house before they left. M.S. did not keep track of petitioner for the entire time he was at the Shelton house. While they were waiting in the woods, "some people came trick or treating" down the path. When members of that group asked who was in the woods, according to M.S., petitioner "stepped out and cocked a gun." That was when M.S. learned that petitioner was carrying a firearm. There was a conversation between petitioner and the trick-or-treaters, but M.S. testified he was too far away to hear what was said.

After the trick-or-treaters moved on, Griffis arrived at 3701 Trotter Road. When he pulled into the driveway, M.S. and petitioner ran over to him, put a gun to his head, shot at him (the bullet hit him in the chest), went through his pockets, stole the checks

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and pizzas, and took off back through the woods. M.S. heard two gunshots, although only one bullet hit Griffis. Investigators did not locate the other bullet. M.S. said he was wearing...

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