Scott v. Banks

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
Docket NumberCivil Action 2:18CV156 TBM-LGI
Decision Date21 July 2021



Civil Action No. 2:18CV156 TBM-LGI

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

July 21, 2021



James Scott seeks federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After a review of the entire record and all the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that his petition be dismissed with prejudice.

Factual and Procedural Background

In 2014, a jury found Scott guilty of attempted rape, kidnapping, and burglary of a dwelling. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, all to be served in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). The relevant facts are accurately described in the state court's opinion and repeated verbatim here.[1]

On July 3, 2009, Scott broke into the home of Danielle Landry in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Scott entered the home, grabbed Landry, and dragged her from the living room toward the bedroom. Landry believed Scott intended to rape her, and she offered money to Scott in exchange for her release. Scott momentarily released Landry, and she


attempted to escape through a window. Scott then dragged Landry back to the kitchen, looked through her purse, and found five dollars.

Landry then urged Scott to take her to an ATM in order to pay him more money. Scott took Landry to her car, forced her into the passenger seat, and drove from the house. At one point, Scott slowed the car and Landry opened the door to flee. Scott held onto Landry while she struggled then eventually freed herself. Landry ran to a neighbor's house for help as Scott drove away. Police later recovered Landry's car [in Hinds County, Mississippi].

Scott alleges that the police issued an arrest warrant on July 3, 2009, and he turned himself in to police in October or November 2009. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) revoked an unserved sentence from a previous conviction, and Scott remained in prison until February 6, 2011.

On September 26, 2011, a Forrest County grand jury indicted Scott for attempted rape, kidnapping, and burglary of a dwelling stemming from the July 3, 2009 incident. On March 14, 2012, Scott was arraigned. Scott then filed a motion for recusal of the trial judge on April 12, 2012. No. ruling occurred on that motion, but on September 6, 2012, the trial judge recused on his own motion. On September 20, 2012, the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed a special judge.

No further action in this case appears in the record until March 24, 2014, when Scott filed a pro se motion to dismiss the case based on speedy-trial violations. Scott filed a similar motion on May 2, 2014, and his appointed counsel filed a third motion to dismiss on August 14, 2014. The trial court denied the third motion and


conducted the trial on August 18 and 19, 2014. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts. Scott v. State, 231 So.3d 1024, 1030 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016), aff'd, 231 So.3d 995 (Miss. 2017), reh'g denied, Feb. 14, 2017.

Aggrieved and represented by counsel, Scott appealed his conviction alleging evidentiary errors, speedy trial violations, and sufficiency and weight-of-the evidence claims. He also filed a supplemental appellate brief, pro se, re-urging his speedy trial claim and asserting the following issues: the trial court denied the right to confrontation, and the State knowingly proffered perjured testimony and suppressed evidence. The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions on June 21, 2016, and denied his subsequent petition for rehearing. Id. On June 15, 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted Scott's petition for writ of certiorari. In a split 4-4 decision issued on November 30, 2017, the court affirmed the Mississippi Court of Appeals decision, with the dissenting justices issuing a separate written opinion. Scott, 231 So.3d 995. Scott filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which was denied. Thereafter, Scott initiated state post-conviction proceedings alleging trial court errors, speedy trial violations, denial of his right to an initial appearance, and ineffective assistance of counsel. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied the motion on June 25, 2018, finding the issues raised therein were barred by res judicata or without merit.

On August 23, 2018, Scott filed the instant petition for federal habeas corpus relief raising the same claims that were raised in state court proceedings:

Ground One: Whether Petitioner was denied his constitutional right to an initial appearance
Ground Two: Whether Petitioner's statutory right to a speedy trial was violated?
Ground Three: Whether Petitioner's constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated?
Ground Four: Whether the trial court erred in denying Petitioner's request for a continuance and allowing untimely-disclosed D.N.A. evidence?
Ground Five: Whether the trial court erred in granting instruction S-11A?
Ground Six: Whether the trial court failed to instruct the jury on the essential elements of the crime under counts I and III?
Ground Seven: Whether the trial court violated Petitioner's right to a complete defense?
Ground Eight: Whether the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, or alternatively, whether the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence?
Ground Nine: Whether Petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel for:
i. Failure to impeach witness with prior inconsistent statement;
ii. Failure to object to jury instructions not defining the elements of counts I and II;
iii. Failure to provide a basic defense, failure to investigate;
iv. Failure to present an abandonment instruction;
v. Failure to provide Petitioner with relevant evidence he needed to make an informed decision about whether to accept a negotiated plea;
vi. Allowing the prosecution to present false evidence;
vii. Failure to hire a D.N.A. expert for Petitioner's defense.
Ground Ten: Cumulative Error.

Having reviewed the record and all the applicable law, the undersigned submits that Scott is not entitled to relief and the instant petition should be dismissed with prejudice.



The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. §2244(d), precludes this Court from granting Petitioner federal habeas corpus relief on claims adjudicated on the merits 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). This court reviews questions of law as well as mixed questions of law and fact pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) of the AEDPA, while questions of fact are reviewed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).

Under the first prong, the clauses “contrary to” and “unreasonable application of” are independent bases for granting federal habeas relief. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). A state court's decision is “contrary to” federal law if it contradicts Supreme Court precedent or reaches a different result on materially indistinguishable facts. Id. “[C]learly established Federal law includes only the holdings of the Court's decisions, ” White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 188 L.Ed.2d 698 (2014) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Under the “unreasonable application” clause, a federal habeas court may grant relief if the state court “correctly identifies the governing legal principle” but then “unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 152 L.Ed.2d 914 (2002). The state court's decision must be objectively unreasonable, not


merely erroneous or incorrect. Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301, 130 S.Ct. 841, 175 L.Ed.2d 738 (2010).

AEDPA's second prong requires that federal courts defer to a state court's factual determinations unless they are based on an “unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Morales v. Thaler, 714 F.3d 295, 301 (5th Cir. 2013). Deference is critical because federal courts have no authority to grant habeas corpus relief simply because “we conclude, in our independent judgment, that a state supreme court's application of [federal] law is erroneous or incorrect.” Catalan v. Cockrell, 315 F.3d 491, 493 (5th Cir. 2002); Jasper v. Thaler, 466 Fed.Appx. 429, 435 (5th Cir. 2012). Thus, we presume the state court's determination of a factual issue is correct, unless a petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (e)(1).

Ground One

In ground one, Scott claims that he was denied his constitutional right to an initial appearance, as provided by Mississippi Uniform Circuit and County Court Rule 6.03.[2]The rule, which was in effect at the time of Scott's arrest and trial, provided that “every person in custody shall be taken, without unnecessary delay and within 48 hours of arrest, before a judicial officer . . . for an initial appearance.” Young v. State, 236 So.3d 49, 58 (Miss. 2017). The primary purpose “of the initial appearance is to secure to the accused


prompt . . . advice of his right to counsel by a judicial officer . . . . ” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Scott appears to have raised this precise argument for the first time in his motion to amend his state court...

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