Collins v. Comm'r, Miss. Dept. of Corr., Civil Action 2:18-CV-46-TBM-RPM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtROBERT P. MYERS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PartiesJAIRUS COLLINS, PETITIONER v. COMM'R, MISS. DEPT. OF CORR., RESPONDENT
Decision Date03 August 2021
Docket NumberCivil Action 2:18-CV-46-TBM-RPM

JAIRUS COLLINS, PETITIONER
v.

COMM'R, MISS. DEPT. OF CORR., RESPONDENT

Civil Action No. 2:18-CV-46-TBM-RPM

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

August 3, 2021


REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

ROBERT P. MYERS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 11, 2018, petitioner Jairus Collins (“Collins”) filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“Section 2254”), seeking for his state court felon-in-possession conviction to be set aside, his sentence vacated, and the charge dismissed. Doc. [1, 3]. Collins contends that he is unlawfully confined because his conviction and sentence were imposed in violation of the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States. Doc. [3], at 1.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 14, 2011, Collins was arrested on suspicion of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. See, e.g., Doc. [9], Ex. 6, at 17-18. On November 14, 2012, Collins was indicted on two counts: (i) first-degree murder, Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(1)(A), and (ii) as a felon in possession of a firearm, Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-5(1). Id., Ex. 1, at 14-15. He was also indicted as a habitual offender, Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-83. Ibid. Shortly thereafter, Collins moved to sever the counts on the grounds that his murder case could be prejudiced by the introduction of his felony record at that trial. Id., Ex. 1, at 16-17. On December 12, 2012, the state trial court granted Collins' motion and severed the charges, ordering that Collins be tried separately on each one. Id., Ex. 1, at 19.

On March 26, 2013, Collins was brought to trial on the murder charge. Doc. [9], Ex. 1, at 20- 21. On March 27, 2013, a jury found Collins to be guilty of first-degree murder. Ibid. Thereafter, the trial judge sentenced Collins as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Id., Ex. 1, at 20-21. On April 1, 2013, Collins' final judgment of conviction was entered. Ibid. Thereafter, Collins directly appealed. Id., Ex. 1, at 96-100. The Mississippi Court of Appeals denied his appeal as well as his motion for a rehearing. Collins v. State, 172 So.3d 813 (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). Collins then filed a timely petition for a writ of certiorari with the Mississippi Supreme Court, which granted his petition. Collins v. State, 160 So.3d 704 (Miss. 2015). On August 20, 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Collins' murder conviction. See Collins v. State, 172 So.3d 724 (Miss. 2015).[1]

On September 16, 2015, the State filed a request with the state trial court for Collins to be brought to trial on the still-pending felon-in-possession charge alone. Doc. [9], Ex. 1, at 23. On October 5, 2015, Collins was given a trial date of February 23, 2016. Id., Ex. 1, at 26. Shortly thereafter, on October 15, 2015, Collins moved to dismiss the felon-in-possession charge on speedy trial grounds. Id., Ex. 1, at 28-30, 35. On November 9, 2015, the state trial court denied his motion. Ibid. On February 23, 2016, Collins was brought to trial on the felon-in-possession charge. See, e.g., id., Ex. 1, at 87-88. On February 25, 2016, a jury found Collins guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ibid. The trial judge sentenced Collins as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Id., Ex. 1, at 20-21. On that same date, Collins' final judgment of conviction was entered. Id., Ex. 1, at 87-88. Thereafter, Collins directly appealed. Id., Ex. 5, at 17-41. On August 29, 2017, the Mississippi Court of Appeals denied his appeal as well as his motion for a rehearing. Collins v. State, 232 So.3d 739 (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). On October 26, 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court summarily denied his certiorari petition. Doc. [9], Ex. 5, at 3. Subsequently, on December 7, 2017, Collins filed an application for leave to move for postconviction relief in state trial court (“PCR application”) with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Id., Ex. 6, at 5-14. On February 15, 2018, the Court summarily denied Collins's application on the grounds that Collins raised the same issues on direct appeal and did not present arguments with “sufficient merit” to warrant an evidentiary hearing. Id., Ex. 6, at 2-3.

On March 27, 2018, Collins filed the instant federal habeas petition. Doc. [1]. Collins raises four claims before this Court. Doc. [1, 3]. He claims that (i) the Mississippi state courts have unconstitutionally interpreted Miss. Code Ann. § 99-17-1 in such a way as to violate his Sixth Amendment speedy trial right, Doc. [3], at 3-7; (ii) the State's delay in bringing him to trial violated his Sixth Amendment speedy trial right, id., at 7-10; (iii) his conviction is against the great weight of the evidence, id., at 10-12; and (iv) his sentence as a habitual offender is unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), id., at 12-13.

III. FACTS

In November 2011, Jessie Miles, Jr. (“Miles”) began to experience issues with his semiautomatic .40 Hi-Point handgun, Serial No. 778606 (“Hi-Point gun”). Doc. [9], Ex. 3 (Byrd T.112, 117); (Miles T. 119-20). In particular, two bullets would occasionally enter the chamber simultaneously and prevent the gun from firing. Id., Ex. 3 (Miles T. 120-21). As such, Miles sought to have his gun repaired. Id., Ex. 3 (Miles T. 119-20). According to Miles, he spoke to Joshia Collins (“Joshia”) about repairs. Ibid. Joshia informed Miles that his brother, petitioner Collins, could repair the firearm. Id., Ex. 3 (Miles T. 120). In late November 2011, Miles spoke with Collins, who agreed to fix the firearm. Ibid. Thereafter, Miles personally gave the Hi-Point gun to Collins. Id., Ex. 3 (Miles T. 120, 128).

In his testimony, Joshia told a very different story. First, Joshia denied speaking with Miles about the Hi-Point gun, though he conceded to knowing Miles. Doc. [9], Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 152- 53). He further denied speaking with Miles about Collins' ability to fix the gun and, in fact, “seriously doubted” that Collins could fix the gun because he was unable to “sit still.” Id., Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 152). He also denied seeing a gun, let alone the Hi-Point gun, in Collins' possession between December 7, 2011 and December 11, 2011. Ibid.

Nevertheless, Joshia conceded that he was with Collins on a date between December 7, 2011 and December 11, 2011. Doc. [9], Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 141). On that date, Joshia agreed to drive Collins to “dispose of a bag, ” though he was not knowledgeable about the bag's contents. Id., Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 143). In turn, the brothers got into a Dodge Caravan (“Dodge”) and began to drive around; the bag was also in the Dodge. Ibid. Before disposing of the bag, Collins and Joshia stopped at their father's, Melven Collins (“Melven”), house in Hattiesburg, MS. Id., Ex. 3 (M. Collins T. 132). Upon meeting the brothers outside, Melven spotted the bag laying on the backseat of the Dodge. Id., Ex. 3 (M. Collins T. 133). He picked up the bag and noticed that it had “weight.” Id., Ex. 3 (M. Collins T. 135). While he was unsure what was inside, Melven's “paternalistic instinct” caused an “alarm” to go off “inside [him].” Id., Ex. 3 (M. Collins T. 133-34). After feeling the bag, Melven lectured his kids and told them to “get away” from his house. Id., Ex. 3 (M. Collins T. 132, 135). The brothers left.

Thereafter, the brothers drove northbound on I-59 with “no specific destination” in mind. Doc. [9], Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 147). Stopping off near the Vossburg, MS exit, Collins left the Dodge and then returned to the vehicle after a brief time; the brothers then drove off. Id., Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 145-46). Days later, Detective Brandon McLemore (“McLemore”) and other Hattiesburg Police Department (“HPD”) officers accompanied Joshia to the same grassy area near the Vossburg exit. Id., Ex. 3 (Jo. Collins T. 148); (McLemore T. 157).[2] Upon arrival, Joshia indicated that the bag was located along a nearby wood line. Id., Ex. 3 (McLemore T. 157-58). McLemore found a brown bag along the wood line containing a firearm with the serial number scratched off. Id., Ex. 3 (McLemore T. 161).

The firearm was then sent to the Mississippi Crime Laboratory. See, e.g., Doc. [9], Ex. 3 (McLemore T. 163). HPD investigator Jeff Byrd was able to determine that the serial number was 778606, which he traced to the registered owner of the gun, Miles. Id., Ex. 3 (Byrd T. 116-17). The State's firearms expert, Lori Beall, testified at trial that she was able to test fire the Hi-Point gun four times in a row without issue and that she did not believe the firearm was fixed or otherwise modified. Id., Ex. 3 (Beall T. 170-72). No. fingerprints were found on the Hi-Point gun. Id., Ex. 3 (McLemore T. 165).[3]

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

To determine whether a petitioner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus, a federal court is required to apply the standard of review set forth in Section 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), to all claims “adjudicated on the merits” in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). If the adjudicated state court claim is a pure question of law or a mixed question of law and fact, the Court defers to the state court decision unless that decision “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)(2).

Section 2254(d)(1)'s “‘clearly established' phrase ‘refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of th[e] [Supreme] Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.'” Poree v. Collins, 866 F.3d 235, 246 (5th Cir. 2017) (quotation omitted). “[T]he lack of a Supreme Court decision on nearly identical facts does not by itself mean that there is no clearly established federal law, since ‘a general standard' from [the Supreme]...

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