Evans v. Smith, No. Civ. L-97-3711.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtLegg
PartiesVernon Lee EVANS, Jr., Petitioner, v. Willie SMITH, Warden, et al., Respondents.
Decision Date30 June 1999
Docket NumberNo. Civ. L-97-3711.
54 F.Supp.2d 503
Vernon Lee EVANS, Jr., Petitioner,
v.
Willie SMITH, Warden, et al., Respondents.
No. Civ. L-97-3711.
United States District Court, D. Maryland.
June 30, 1999.

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Gerald I. Fisher, of Washington, D.C., and A. Stephen Hut, Jr., Jane L. McClellan, and Sandeep Parekh, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, and Annabelle L. Lisic, Assistant Attorney General, for respondents.

MEMORANDUM

LEGG, District Judge.


In 1984, a Maryland state jury convicted the petitioner in this case, Vernon Lee Evans, Jr. ("Evans"), on two counts of first degree murder for the shooting deaths of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy. At the subsequent sentencing, the same jury imposed two death sentences.

On post-conviction review in 1991, the Circuit Court for Worcester County vacated the two death sentences and granted Evans a new sentencing. In 1992, a resentencing jury also returned two death sentences. In total, Evans has petitioned the Maryland Court of Appeals five times in this case, leading that Court to publish four separate substantive opinions, comprising approximately 164 pages.1

Now, fifteen years after his guilt phase trial, Evans has exhausted his direct and post-conviction appeals in the Maryland state courts and has filed this petition seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Because Evans filed his petition on November 3, 1997, it is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). AEDPA, Pub.L. 104-132, tit. I, §§ 101-06, 110 Stat. 1214-21 (Apr. 24, 1996).

Evans raises a number of alleged constitutional errors relating both to his guilt phase and resentencing trials. The parties comprehensively briefed the issues, and this Court held a hearing, at which able counsel represented Evans and the State of Maryland (the "State"). For the following reasons, the Court shall DENY Evans's petition for relief.

I. Background

In 1985, the Maryland Court of Appeals summarized the underlying facts of this case:

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Evans and Anthony Grandison entered into an agreement whereby Evans would kill David Scott Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl, because the couple were scheduled to testify against Grandison in a narcotics case pending in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Evans was to receive $9,000.00 from Grandison for performing the murders.

David Scott Piechowicz and Cheryl Piechowicz were employed at the Warren House Motel in Baltimore County. On April 28, 1983, Susan Kennedy, the sister of Cheryl Piechowicz, was working in the place of Cheryl at the Warren House Motel. The evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, on April 28th, Evans went to the motel and, not knowing the Piechowiczs, shot David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy with a MAC-11 machine pistol. Nineteen bullets were fired at the victims, who died from the multiple gunshot wounds.

. . . . .

Among the witnesses offering significant incriminating evidence against the defendant Evans were Janet Moore, Charlene Sparrow and Calvin Harper. Moore, Grandison's girlfriend, had been contacted by Grandison, who was then in the Baltimore City Jail, to assist in making arrangements for the murder of the witnesses. Sparrow was Evans's girlfriend and offered the most damaging testimony about the defendant's involvement as the killer. According to Sparrow, she had accompanied the defendant and Moore to the Baltimore City Jail where the latter two visited Grandison two days before the shooting, inspected the reception desk area of the Warren House Hotel, and reported to the defendant concerning the people working there and the presence or absence of security features. Sparrow testified that, at the request of the defendant and with his funds, she obtained a room at the motel, was with the defendant in the immediate area of the lobby at the time of the shooting, and wiped down the smoking MAC-11 machine pistol handed to her by the defendant immediately after the shooting. She related that the defendant told her that he would receive $9,000.00 "if he knocked both of them off." Harper's testimony involved activities of April 26, 27 and 28, 1983, and included a description of the defendant's acquisition of the machine pistol from Rodney Kelly, as well as the defendant's statement that he liked the gun.

Evans II, 304 Md. 487, 494-96, 499 A.2d 1261. The state and federal governments both brought charges against Evans in connection with the shootings. As part of a coordinated strategy between the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland and the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office, the agencies cross-designated special prosecutors for Evans's federal and state trials.2 As a result, Assistant United States Attorney, David B. Irwin, participated in Evans's state trial.3

The guilt phase jury convicted Evans on two counts of first degree murder. At the sentencing phase, the jury returned two death sentences. Evans exhausted his direct appeals when the Supreme Court denied certiorari on June 30, 1986. 478 U.S. 1010 (1986). In 1991, however, the Honorable Theodore R. Eschenburg, Associate Judge of the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Maryland partially granted Evans's first petition for post-conviction relief and ordered resentencing, though he denied relief on the underlying convictions.

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(See Exh. 48 at 38.)4 At resentencing in 1992, which was presided over by the Honorable Christian M. Kahl of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, a jury again returned two death sentences. Again the Court of Appeals affirmed, Evans IV, 333 Md. 660, 637 A.2d 117 (1994); and again the Supreme Court denied certiorari, 513 U.S. 833, 115 S.Ct. 109, 130 L.Ed.2d 56 (1994).

Following completion of direct appeal on his resentencing, Evans filed a second post-conviction petition for relief in state court on August 29, 1995. This second petition primarily addressed matters relating to resentencing, but also addressed issues relating to the guilt phase trial and subsequent appeals. On January 24, 1997, after holding an evidentiary hearing, the Honorable James T. Smith, Jr. of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland denied Evans's petition.5 On May 7, 1997, the Court of Appeals denied leave for appeal. Evans filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. On November 3, 1997, while that petition was pending, Evans filed the instant habeas petition. The Supreme Court denied certiorari on November 10, 1997, 118 S.Ct. 411, leaving this habeas petition as Evans's last avenue for relief. Before addressing the merits of this petition, the Court will consider the appropriate standards for this Court's review of state court legal and factual determinations.

II. Application of the AEDPA to this case

In 1996, before Evans filed this habeas petition, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, ("AEDPA"), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1218. The statute amended Chapter 153 of Title 28 to narrow the scope of review of federal habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. See id. AEDPA also created a new Chapter 154, governing federal habeas corpus review for state death penalty cases.6 See id.

Counsel for Evans and for the State agree that the case should be governed by the amended standards of review set out in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) and (e). Section (d) now provides that a federal court shall not grant relief with respect to any claim that was "adjudicated on the merits" in State court, unless that adjudication:

(1) 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; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

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§ 2254(d).7 New Section (e) also requires broad deference to state court factual determinations. Section (e)(1) now provides that a federal habeas court shall presume correct a state court's determination of a factual issue, with the petitioner having the burden of rebutting that presumption.

The Fourth Circuit recently issued its first opinion regarding the proper application of these standards. See Green v. French, 143 F.3d 865 (4th Cir.1998). In Green, the Fourth Circuit explained that courts should read § 2254 in a way that "accord[s] each term its most natural (even if not its only) meaning." Id. at 870. Based on such a reading, the Fourth Circuit held that "habeas relief is authorized only when the state courts have decided the question by interpreting or applying the relevant precedent in a manner that reasonable jurists would all agree is unreasonable...."8 Id. The Fourth Circuit affirmed this standard of review in Williams v. Taylor, 163 F.3d 860, 865-866 (4th Cir. 1998), petition for cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 1355, 143 L.Ed.2d 516, 1999 WL 148296 (U.S.1999).

As previously stated, the Maryland Court of Appeals has published four separate, substantive opinions in this case, encompassing approximately 164 pages. The Evans "canon" also includes two unpublished opinions of the Maryland trial judges who decided Evans's post-conviction petitions. In these six opinions, the Maryland courts have addressed every issue that Evans raises in the instant habeas corpus petition. Accordingly, the standards of deference set out in amended § 2254, as interpreted by the Fourth Circuit in Green, will inform this Court's analysis.

In many of his claims, Evans contends that his previous counsel rendered ineffective assistance. These contentions are governed by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). In order to prove that an attorney's...

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5 practice notes
  • Jackson v. U.S., No. Civ. 1:04CV251.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • June 19, 2009
    ...2005), aff'd, 495 F.3d 951 (8th Cir.2007); Page 613 cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 756, 172 L.Ed.2d 747 (2008); Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 531 (D.Md.1999), aff'd, 220 F.3d 306 (4th 6. The Petitioner's demand for exculpatory evidence. Habeas counsel make a blanket demand for ex......
  • Evans v. State, No. 78 Sept. Term 2003.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • July 23, 2004
    ...counsel "emphasized mitigation" and "argued that life imprisonment, rather than death, was the appropriate punishment." Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 516 and n. 26 (D.Md.1999), affirmed, Evans v. Smith, supra, 220 F.3d At the conclusion of the 1992 resentencing proceeding, the jury dete......
  • U.S. v. Johnson, No. CR 01-3046-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • February 18, 2005
    ...determining aggravating and mitigating factors, because no clearly established federal law required such bifurcation); Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 531 (D.Md.1999) (concluding on habeas review of a state capital conviction that the defendant was not entitled to a two-phase sentencing h......
  • Evans v. State, No. 107.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 19, 2006
    ...pretext by comparing the ages, occupations, etc. of the potential jurors Irwin struck against those he did not strike." Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 514 The District Court (Judge Legg) reviewed the trial transcript and this Court's ruling on appeal and concluded that none of those comp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Jackson v. U.S., No. Civ. 1:04CV251.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • June 19, 2009
    ...2005), aff'd, 495 F.3d 951 (8th Cir.2007); Page 613 cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 756, 172 L.Ed.2d 747 (2008); Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 531 (D.Md.1999), aff'd, 220 F.3d 306 (4th 6. The Petitioner's demand for exculpatory evidence. Habeas counsel make a blanket demand for ex......
  • Evans v. State, No. 78 Sept. Term 2003.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • July 23, 2004
    ...counsel "emphasized mitigation" and "argued that life imprisonment, rather than death, was the appropriate punishment." Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 516 and n. 26 (D.Md.1999), affirmed, Evans v. Smith, supra, 220 F.3d At the conclusion of the 1992 resentencing proceeding, the jury dete......
  • U.S. v. Johnson, No. CR 01-3046-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • February 18, 2005
    ...determining aggravating and mitigating factors, because no clearly established federal law required such bifurcation); Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 531 (D.Md.1999) (concluding on habeas review of a state capital conviction that the defendant was not entitled to a two-phase sentencing h......
  • Evans v. State, No. 107.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 19, 2006
    ...pretext by comparing the ages, occupations, etc. of the potential jurors Irwin struck against those he did not strike." Evans v. Smith, 54 F.Supp.2d 503, 514 The District Court (Judge Legg) reviewed the trial transcript and this Court's ruling on appeal and concluded that none of those comp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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