McWhorter v. Dunn, Case No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtR. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PartiesCASEY A. McWHORTER, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON S. DUNN, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, Respondent.
Decision Date22 January 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP

CASEY A. McWHORTER, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFERSON S. DUNN, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections,1 Respondent.

Case No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA MIDDLE DIVISION

January 22, 2019


MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioner Casey A. McWhorter has petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 1994 capital murder conviction and death sentence in Alabama state court. McWhorter alleges that a variety of constitutional violations require reversal of his conviction and/or sentence. The parties have fully briefed McWhorter's claims. (Docs. 14, 20). After careful consideration of the record, the pleadings, and the applicable provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the court finds that McWhorter has not shown that he is due an evidentiary hearing, and he is not entitled to habeas relief. Accordingly, and for the reasons stated below, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus is due to be denied.

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Table of Contents

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY .................................................................................................... 6

II. THE OFFENSE OF CONVICTION ..................................................................................... 8

III. THE SENTENCE .................................................................................................................. 9

IV. THE SCOPE OF FEDERAL HABEAS REVIEW .......................................................... 12

A. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies: The First Condition Precedent to Federal Habeas Review ................................................................................................................ 12

B. The Procedural Default Doctrine: The Second Condition Precedent to Federal Habeas Review ................................................................................................................ 14

1. General principles ....................................................................................................... 14
2. Overcoming procedural default ................................................................................. 17
a. The "cause and prejudice" standard .................................................................... 18
i. "Cause" ............................................................................................................... 19
ii. "Prejudice" ......................................................................................................... 20
b. The "fundamental miscarriage of justice" standard .......................................... 21

C. The Statutory Overlay: The Effect of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 on Habeas Review ......................................................................... 21

1. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) ................................................................................................. 22
2. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) ...................................................................................................... 23
a. The meaning of § 2254(d)(1)'s "contrary to" clause ........................................... 25
b. The meaning of § 2254(d)(1)'s "unreasonable application" clause ................... 26

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c. The meaning of § 2254(d)(2)'s clause addressing an "unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding" .................................................................................................. 28
d. Evaluating state court factual determinations under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(2) and (e)(1) ................................................................................................................ 29

D. The Burden of Proof and Heightened Pleading Requirements for Habeas Petitions ............................................................................................................................ 30

E. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims ...................................................................... 32

1. The performance prong .............................................................................................. 34
2. The prejudice prong ................................................................................................... 36
3. Deference accorded state court findings of historical fact and decisions on the merits when evaluating ineffective assistance of counsel claims ................ 37

V. McWHORTER'S CLAIMS .................................................................................................. 39

A. McWhorter's Claim That He Was Denied the Right to an Impartial Jury Because a Juror Intentionally Hid Critical Facts During Voir Dire .......................... 39

1. The Parties' Arguments .............................................................................................. 39
2. Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 40

B. McWhorter's Claim That He Was Sentenced to Death Based on Extraneous Evidence ........................................................................................................................... 53

1. The Parties' Arguments .............................................................................................. 53
2. Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 57

C. McWhorter's Claim That He Was Denied His Constitutional Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel ...................................................................................................... 58

1. Inadequate Investigation and Failure to Present Mitigating Evidence ................. 59

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a. The Parties' Arguments ........................................................................................ 61
b. Analysis .................................................................................................................. 65
2. Failure to Object to McWhorter's Being Transported to and from the Courtroom in Handcuffs ............................................................................................ 87
a. The Parties' Arguments ........................................................................................ 87
b. Analysis .................................................................................................................. 91
3. Failure to Object to the Trial Court's Preparation of a Sentencing Order Prior to the Sentencing Hearing ................................................................................ 92
a. The Parties' Arguments ........................................................................................ 92
b. Analysis .................................................................................................................. 93
4. The Rule 32 Court's Exclusion of Evidence Does Not Warrant an Evidentiary Hearing in this Court .................................................................................................. 95
a. The Parties' Arguments ........................................................................................ 95
b. Analysis .................................................................................................................. 97

D. McWhorter's Claim That the State Failed to Disclose Evidence Directly Relevant to Mitigation in Violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) ........ 100

1. The Parties' Arguments ............................................................................................ 100
2. Analysis ...................................................................................................................... 101
a. Procedural Default .............................................................................................. 101
b. Merits ................................................................................................................... 106

E. McWhorter's Claim That the Trial Court Erred by Failing to Instruct the Jury on Lesser Included Offenses ............................................................................... 108

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1. The Parties' Arguments ............................................................................................ 109
2. Analysis ...................................................................................................................... 128

F. McWhorter's Claim That the Trial Court Improperly Excluded a Venireperson from Serving on the Jury in Violation of Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968) .......................................................................................... 139

1. The Parties' Arguments ............................................................................................ 140
2. Analysis ...................................................................................................................... 145

G. McWhorter's Claim That the Trial Court Improperly Coerced the Jury into Returning a Death Sentence after the Jury Was Deadlocked ................................... 148

1. The Parties' Arguments ............................................................................................ 148
2. Analysis ...................................................................................................................... 156

H. McWhorter's Claim That the Trial Court Improperly Directed Prospective Jurors to Give a Specific Answer to a Crucial Voir Dire Question .......................... 161

1. The Parties' Arguments ............................................................................................ 161
2. Analysis ...................................................................................................................... 164

VI. CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................. 166

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I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In May 1993,...

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