Harrison v. Anderson, No. IP 99-0933-C-B/S.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
Writing for the CourtBarker
Citation300 F.Supp.2d 690
PartiesJames P. HARRISON, Petitioner, v. Rondle ANDERSON, Superintendent, Respondent.
Decision Date22 January 2004
Docket NumberNo. IP 99-0933-C-B/S.
300 F.Supp.2d 690
James P. HARRISON, Petitioner,
v.
Rondle ANDERSON, Superintendent, Respondent.
No. IP 99-0933-C-B/S.
United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
January 22, 2004.

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Joseph M Cleary, Hammerle & Allen, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff.

Priscilla J. Fossum, Office of Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, for Defendant.

ENTRY ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

BARKER, District Judge.


James Patrick Harrison ("Harrison") was convicted of murder and arson in the Posey Circuit Court. He was also determined to be an habitual offender. He was sentenced to death for the two murders of which he had been found guilty. After challenging his conviction and sentence in the Indiana courts, he brought the present action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

For the reasons explained in this Entry, Harrison's petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. State Proceedings

The bodies of 20-year old Stacy Forsee, her daughter Tia Forsee (age 3½), and her son Jordan Hanmore (age 21 months) were found in the charred remains of Stacy's home in the early morning hours of January 17, 1989. Stacy had been stabbed and the children had died in the fire. After an investigation that spanned more than two years, Harrison was charged with arson, with the knowing murders of Stacy and Tia, and with the felony murder of Jordan. The evidence presented at trial included the following: (1) Harrison was observed near the fire scene on the night of the murders before the fire trucks arrived; (2) Harrison had purchased kerosene days before the murders; (3) the fire had been started by a flammable liquid; and (4) Harrison told fellow inmates in a Maryland jail that he had committed the crimes.

Charges against Harrison were filed on April 18, 1991, for arson, two counts of knowing murder and one count of felony murder. The action was docketed in the Posey Circuit Court as No. 65C01-9104-CF-0008. Harrison's initial hearing occurred on April 29, 1991. Attorneys Thomas Swain and Ronald Warrum were appointed as Harrison's counsel and the trial was set for January 6, 1992.

During pre-trial proceedings, Harrison sought a change of venue from the judge, the Honorable James Redwine. After Judge Redwine denied that request, Harrison filed an original action with the Indiana Supreme Court to compel a change of judge. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to issue a writ granting the relief Harrison sought.

Harrison's trial commenced on November 6, 1991. The guilt phase concluded on November 15, 1991, with the jury acquitting Harrison of Stacy Forsee's murder, but finding him guilty of the remaining counts. The jury recommended that Harrison be sentenced to death for the murders of both Tia Forsee and Jordan Hanmore, and the trial court imposed the death sentence for both counts on December 14, 1991.

The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal in Harrison v. State, 644 N.E.2d 1243 (Ind.1995), but the case was remanded to the trial court for the preparation of a capital sentencing order. After the trial court complied with the remand, the imposition of the death sentence was affirmed in Harrison v. State, 659 N.E.2d 480 (Ind.

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1995). The trial court's subsequent denial of Harrison's petition for post-conviction relief was affirmed on appeal in Harrison v. State, 707 N.E.2d 767 (Ind.1999).

B. Harrison's Claims

Harrison presents eleven claims in this habeas proceeding, as follows:

• Harrison was denied his right to counsel and trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance during the guilt phase of his trial.

• The trial court improperly disallowed the presentation of alibi evidence.

• The trial court incorrectly excluded evidence that someone else did the crime.

• The trial court erred when it denied him expert assistance.

• The trial court was biased against Harrison.

• Exculpatory evidence was suppressed.

• The State destroyed or lost material evidence.

• Harrison was denied his right to counsel and trial counsel assisted him ineffectively during his penalty phase.

• Victim evidence was improperly admitted.

• Harrison was denied the effective assistance of counsel in his direct appeal.

• On remand, the Indiana Supreme Court incorrectly reviewed Harrison's death sentence after finding an improper aggravating circumstance.

As is made evident in this Entry, one asserted error controls the disposition of the case. That is the claim of judicial bias.

C. Indiana's Capital Punishment Statute

In assessing Harrison's petition, we start with a broad explanation of Indiana's capital punishment adjudication process. At the time of Harrison's trial and sentencing, 30 of the 37 states that provided for the death penalty gave the life-or-death decision solely to the jury.1 Of the remaining seven states, only Florida, Alabama and Indiana allowed a judge to override a jury's recommendation against death. Spaziano v. Florida, 468 U.S. 447, 463 & n. 9, 104 S.Ct. 3154, 82 L.Ed.2d 340 (1984).

The Indiana Supreme Court has described the operation of Indiana's capital sentencing scheme, set forth in Ind. Code § 35-50-2-9, in the following terms:

Our death penalty statute provides three distinct steps which the trial court must take in reaching its sentencing decision in cases in which the jury has found the defendant guilty of Murder and the State seeks the death penalty. First, the trial court must find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the aggravating circumstances listed in the death penalty statute exists. Second, the trial court must find that any mitigating circumstances that exist are outweighed by the aggravating circumstance or circumstances. This evaluation and weighing process should be described in the trial court's sentencing statement. Third, before making the final determination of the sentence, the trial court must consider the jury's recommendation. However, the death penalty statute also provides

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that the trial court is not bound by the jury's recommendation.

Roark v. State, 644 N.E.2d 565, 570 (Ind.1994).

II. SCOPE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. AEDPA

Harrison seeks relief in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). In the exercise of its habeas jurisdiction, a federal court may grant relief only if the petitioner shows that he is in custody "in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

When a habeas petition is filed after enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) on April 24, 1996, that Act's restrictions on federal review of state court rulings apply to the case. Henderson v. Walls, 296 F.3d 541, 545 (7th Cir.2002). The AEDPA "modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas `retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 152 L.Ed.2d 914 (2002). Under the AEDPA, a writ of habeas corpus may be granted only if Harrison demonstrates that the state court's adjudication of the claim was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 403-04, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000), or if the decision was premised on an unreasonable determination of facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). The centerpiece of this statute in most cases, Section 2254(d)(1), demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt. See Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24, 123 S.Ct. 357, 154 L.Ed.2d 279 (2003) (per curiam) (citation and quotation omitted). Nonetheless, deference by definition does not preclude relief. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003).

This deferential standard only applies, however, to claims which the Indiana courts adjudicated on their merits. See Ouska v. Cahill-Masching, 246 F.3d 1036, 1046 (7th Cir.2001); Braun v. Powell, 227 F.3d 908, 916-17 (7th Cir.2000). Additionally:

If the state court's opinion was unreasonable — or if the state judiciary did not address the constitutional claim, despite an opportunity to do so — then § 2254(d) no longer applies. A prisoner still must establish an entitlement to the relief he seeks, and it is § 2254(a), not § 2254(d), that sets the standard: the court issues "a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States."

Aleman v. Sternes, 320 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir.2003).

Factual issues determined by a state court are presumed to be correct, and the petitioner bears the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 196 (3d Cir.2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). This is a "rigorous burden of proof." Sanchez v. Gilmore, 189 F.3d 619, 623 (7th Cir.1999). See also Green v. White, 232 F.3d 671, 672 n. 3 (9th Cir.2000) (although "the relationship between § 2254(d)(2) and § 2254(e)(1) is not entirely clear ... the standard of review appears to be clear error under both statutory provisions.").

B. Procedural Default

In addition to the substantive standard set out above, "[i]t is the rule in this country that assertions of error in criminal

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proceedings must first be raised in state court in order to form the basis for relief in habeas. Claims not so raised are considered defaulted." Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 375, 118 S.Ct. 1352, 140 L.Ed.2d 529 (1998) (citing Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594 (1977)).

Procedural default is a...

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6 practice notes
  • Sowell v. Collins, No. 1:94CV237.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • March 31, 2008
    ...created inference that judge had "decided Franklin was guilty before he conducted Franklin's trial"); Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690 (S.D.Ind.2004) (granting relief on Page 898 of judicial bias on the basis of pervasive examples throughout trial process demonstrating that......
  • Harrison v. McBride, No. 04-1398.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 27, 2005
    ...that led to Mr. Harrison's habeas petition are set forth in the district court's very thorough opinion. See Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690 (S.D.Ind.2004). We recount here only those matters pertinent to the issue raised on On January 17, 1989, the bodies of 20-year old Stacy Forsee......
  • Johnson v. Warren, No. CIV. 03-40154.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 15, 2004
    ...should employ the initial presumption that the assigned trial judge properly discharged his official duties. See Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690, 704 (S.D.Ind.2004) (citing Bracy, 520 U.S. at 909, 117 S.Ct. In the present case, the mere fact that the sentencing judge had represented......
  • State v. Dorsey, No. C6-03-197.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 2005
    ...my view, was more akin to a confirmatory follow-up of an immutable fact and not an independent investigation. Cf. Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690, 706-10, 714 (S.D.Ind.2004) (trial judge committed "forensic misconduct" in personal participation in development of pretrial p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Sowell v. Collins, No. 1:94CV237.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • March 31, 2008
    ...created inference that judge had "decided Franklin was guilty before he conducted Franklin's trial"); Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690 (S.D.Ind.2004) (granting relief on Page 898 of judicial bias on the basis of pervasive examples throughout trial process demonstrating that......
  • Harrison v. McBride, No. 04-1398.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 27, 2005
    ...that led to Mr. Harrison's habeas petition are set forth in the district court's very thorough opinion. See Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690 (S.D.Ind.2004). We recount here only those matters pertinent to the issue raised on On January 17, 1989, the bodies of 20-year old Stacy Forsee......
  • Johnson v. Warren, No. CIV. 03-40154.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 15, 2004
    ...should employ the initial presumption that the assigned trial judge properly discharged his official duties. See Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690, 704 (S.D.Ind.2004) (citing Bracy, 520 U.S. at 909, 117 S.Ct. In the present case, the mere fact that the sentencing judge had represented......
  • State v. Dorsey, No. C6-03-197.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 2005
    ...my view, was more akin to a confirmatory follow-up of an immutable fact and not an independent investigation. Cf. Harrison v. Anderson, 300 F.Supp.2d 690, 706-10, 714 (S.D.Ind.2004) (trial judge committed "forensic misconduct" in personal participation in development of pretrial p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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