Jones v. Chatman

Decision Date30 September 2019
Docket NumberCASE NO. CV502-116
PartiesASHLEY LYNDOL JONES, Petitioner, v. BRUCE CHATMAN, Warden Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia

Before the Court are the parties' briefings on the merits of Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 138; Doc. 141; Doc. 147.) After careful consideration, Petitioner's petition is DENIED. (Doc. 24.) Additionally, Petitioner's Motion for Leave to File Exhibits (Doc. 147) is DENIED and Petitioner's Motion Requesting Ruling (Doc. 152) is DISMISSED AS MOOT. The Clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.


The facts of this case were set forth by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Jones and his co-defendant, Allen Bunner, began the crime spree which led to the death of Keith Holland on the night before the murder, when they stole four cases of beer from a convenience store in Ware County. The co-defendants fled in an automobile with three other companions, who were waiting for them outside the store. The group spent the remainder of the night driving around aimlessly and drinking the stolen beer, until their car broke down, and Jones and Bunner left the others, stating they were going to find a truck.
The co-defendants stole a Ford truck, belonging to Rudolph Melton, which was parked in front of Melton's residence. After driving around for several more hours in the stolen truck, they arrived at the home of the victim, Keith Holland. Bunner knocked on Holland's front door at approximately 5 a.m. and asked Holland's wife Mamie for assistance, on the pretext that the truck's battery was dead. Mamie Holland woke her husband, and he went outside to assist Bunner. As Holland was leaning over to look in the engine compartment of the truck, Jones struck him in the head from behind with a sledge hammer.
Mamie Holland witnessed the first blow from her dining room window and reacted by screaming for Jones to stop and by banging on the window. Jones turned and looked at her but continued to pound the victim, inflicting at least six blows to the head and face, all of which were potentially fatal. Prior to leaving in the victim's truck, Jones got out of the vehicle and hit the victim again, while he was lying on the ground. EMS workers arrived within minutes after the co-defendants' departure. Because of the injuries to the victim's face, EMS workers were unable to perform CPR or intubate the victim, and he died before reaching the hospital.
Jones and Bunner drove to Florida in the victim's truck. They tossed Holland's personal belongings out of the truck along the way, and pawned two chain saws belonging to Melton. Police learned of their whereabouts through telephone calls made by the co-defendants to a friend in Georgia, and they were arrested at a welcome station south of the Georgia-Florida line. The victim's truck, which Jones and Bunner had burned, was found in the woods a short distance away.

Jones v. State, 267 Ga. 592, 592-93, 481 S.E.2d, 823-24 (1997).


Petitioner was arrested on the afternoon of March 31, 1993. Seven days later, he was indicted in the Superior Court of Ware County, Georgia for malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, interference with government property, and theft by taking. (Doc. 96, Attach. 1 at 14.) He pled not guilty. (Doc. 96, Attach. 2 at 133.) His jury trial began on June 8, 1995.1 (Doc. 24 at 13.) On June 10, 1995, he was convicted of all charges. (Doc. 96, Attach. 2 at 133.) Four days later, he was sentenced to death. (Doc. 24 at 13.)

After a hearing, the trial court denied Petitioner's motion for a new trial. (Doc. 98, Attach. 8 at 29.) On March 10, 1997, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences. Jones v. State, 267 Ga. 592, 481 S.E.2d 821 (1997). A petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied on November 3, 1997. Jones v. Georgia, 522 U.S. 953, 118 S. Ct. 376, 139 L. Ed. 2d 293 (1997).

On February 5, 1998, the trial court signed an execution warrant and scheduled Petitioner's execution for the time period between February 24 and March 3, 1998. (Doc. 99, Attach. 6 at 7.) In response to the death warrant, Petitioner filed a state habeas corpus petition in the Superior Court of Butts County.(Id. at 6.) The state habeas court conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 15, 1999 (Doc. 100, Attachs. 1-4; Doc. 101, Attachs. 1-5; Doc. 102, Attachs. 1-3), and ultimately denied the petition, as amended, on January 7, 2000 (Doc. 103, Attach. 1). Further attempts to appeal were unavailing.

After filing a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition in this Court (Doc. 5), Petitioner filed a Motion for Discovery seeking the opportunity to depose his trial and sentencing jurors (Doc. 31). The Court addressed Petitioner's request and ultimately denied his motion, concluding that many of his claims were procedurally defaulted. (Doc. 37.) Petitioner subsequently filed a Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing requesting an evidentiary hearing on similar claims to those for which he had requested discovery. (Doc. 50.) The Court dismissed that motion and ordered Petitioner to resubmit his request. (Doc. 54.) The Court denied Petitioner's second motion for an evidentiary hearing (Doc. 58) and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing Petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). (Doc. 79.) The parties filed the requested briefs and Petitioner filed a renewed motion for an evidentiary hearing. (Doc. 88.) Thereafter, the Court requested additional supplemental briefing on the issue of procedural default and exhaustion. (Doc. 94.) After careful review, the Courteventually denied Petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing. (Doc. 112.)

On October 6, 2017, Petitioner filed his Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Doc. 138.) Respondent provided a response brief on November 20, 2017 (Doc. 141) and Petitioner filed a reply brief on December 21, 2017 (Doc. 146). Additionally, Petitioner filed a Motion for Leave to File Exhibits, requesting that the Court permit Petitioner to supplement the record with some exhibits that were mistakenly left out of the state court record. (Doc. 147.) Respondent has challenged Petitioner's ability to supplement the record. (Doc. 149.) The parties' briefing on the merits of this case and Petitioner's motion are now ripe for review.2


"[T]he writ of habeas corpus has historically been regarded as an extraordinary remedy, 'a bulwark against convictions that violate fundamental fairness.' " Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633, 113 S. Ct. 1710, 1719, 123 L. Ed. 2d 353 (1993) (citing Engles v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 126, 102 S. Ct. 1558, 1571, 71 L. Ed. 2d 783 (1982) (internal quotations omitted)). Accordingly, "[t]hose few who are ultimately successful [inobtaining habeas relief] are persons whom society has grievously wronged and for whom belated liberation is little enough compensation." Id. at 634, 113 S. Ct. at 1719 (quoting Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 440-41, 83 S. Ct. 822, 850, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837 (1963)) (alteration in original). The notion that habeas relief is an extraordinary remedy is "especially true when federal courts are asked to engage in habeas review of a state court conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254." McWhorther v. Dunn, 4:13-cv-2150, 2019 WL 277385, at *10 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 22, 2019).

A. Claims Adjudicated on the Merits

The review of a petitioner's claims that were considered on the merits by the state court is governed by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). Pursuant to AEDPA,

[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(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.

U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under this provision, "AEDPA 'imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state court rulings' and'demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.' " Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d 1243, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773, 130 S. Ct. 1855, 1862, 176 L. Ed. 2d 34 (2010)). Accordingly, the Court must not assess whether it "believes the state court's determination was incorrect, but whether the determination was unreasonable—a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473, 127 S. Ct. 1933, 1939, 167 L. Ed. 2d 836 (2007); see also, Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341, 123 S. Ct. 1029, 1042, 154 L. Ed. 2d 931 (2003) (discussing that a state court's ruling must be "objectively unreasonable").

A state court decision is "contrary to . . . clearly established Federal law" under § 2254 (d)(1) "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 1523, 146 L. E. 2d 389 (2000). A state court decision involves "an unreasonable application of" clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 413, 120 S. Ct. at 1523. Within this...

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