Stanford v. Parker, Warden

Decision Date12 February 2001
Docket NumberNo. 00-5094,00-5094
Citation266 F.3d 442
Parties(6th Cir. 2001) Kevin Stanford, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Phil Parker, Warden, Kentucky State Penitentiary, Respondent-Appellee. Argued:
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville. No. 94-00453, Charles R. Simpson, III, Chief District Judge. [Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted] J. Vincent Aprile, II, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC ADVOCACY, Frankfort, Kentucky, Stefanie M. McArdle, Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Appellant.

Kevin Stanford. Eddyville, KY, pro se.

Elizabeth A. Myerscough, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Civil Division, Frankfort, KY, David A. Smith, Ian G. Sonego, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL APPELLATE DIVISION, Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS, SILER, and COLE, Circuit Judges.


SILER, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner Kevin Nigel Stanford was convicted in a Kentucky state court of capital murder, first degree robbery, first degree sodomy, and receipt of stolen property. He was sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence were upheld on direct appeal and through state post-conviction proceedings. Stanford then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, which denied his petition. We affirm the district court's denial of Stanford's habeas petition.

I. Background

In 1981, Baerbel Poore worked as an attendant at a Checker gasoline station in southwestern Jefferson County, Kentucky. Working alone one evening, she read the gas pumps in preparation for closing the station for the night. Stanford, then seventeen years old, lived in the vicinity of the Checker station and knew Poore. On January 7, 1981, he and David Buchanan decided to rob the station. Troy Johnson, their accomplice, agreed to drive the get-away car but refused to participate in the robbery.

As Poore finished reading the pumps, Stanford approached her with a gun and, together with Buchanan, forced Poore inside the station's convenience store. Once inside, Buchanan attempted to open the store's floor safes while Stanford took Poore to a restroom and raped her. Buchanan soon joined Stanford in the restroom, where they continued to rape and sodomize Poore.

When Stanford left the station, he took Poore with him. Driving Poore's car, he drove her a short distance to an isolated area. Buchanan and Johnson followed in Johnson's car. When the cars stopped, Buchanan exited Johnson's car and approached Poore's. He saw Stanford standing just outside the open driver's door and Poore smoking a cigarette in the back seat. Suddenly, Stanford shot Poore in the face at point blank range. He then shot her a second time in the head.

After he murdered Poore, Stanford returned to the gas station to steal cigarettes. Total proceeds from the robbery of the Checker station included approximately 300 cartons of cigarettes, two gallons of gasoline, and a small amount of cash.

In August 1982, over their objections, Stanford and Buchanan were jointly tried before a jury in the courtroom of Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles M. Leibson. The jury found Stanford guilty of the capital murder of Poore, first degree robbery first degree sodomy, and receipt of stolen property valued in excess of $100. Judge Leibson sentenced Stanford to death for his capital murder conviction and forty-five years imprisonment for robbery, sodomy, and receipt of stolen property. Co-defendant Buchanan could not receive the death penalty because he was prosecuted as death-ineligible. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, and sixty-years imprisonment for rape, sodomy, and robbery. Johnson was convicted in juvenile court for his role as the getaway driver.

Stanford's conviction was upheld on direct appeal and in post-conviction proceedings. In 1987, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed his capital conviction. See Stanford v. Commonwealth, 734 S.W.2d 781 (Ky. 1987). And, in 1989, his conviction became final when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. See Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989). After his direct appeal failed, Stanford filed a post-conviction motion to vacate pursuant to Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42. First, the Jefferson Circuit Court and, then, the Kentucky Supreme Court rejected his post-conviction motion and affirmed his capital sentence. See Stanford v. Commonwealth, 854 S.W.2d 742 (Ky. 1993). In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on Stanford's post-conviction claims. See Stanford v. Kentucky, 510 U.S. 1049 (1994).

Stanford's federal habeas litigation began when he filed his petition in the Western District of Kentucky in January 1996. That petition raised forty-two separate claims of error. In August 1999, the district court denied his habeas petition and granted a blanket certificate of probable cause ("CPC"). In January 2000, Stanford timely appealed the district court's denial and dismissal of his habeas petition to this court.

II. Certificate of Appealability

After the district court's entry of judgment and issuance of a CPC, the Supreme Court considered how provisions contained in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2266, should be applied in habeas actions initiated prior to AEDPA's enactment but for which appeals were filed after AEDPA's enactment. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473 (2000). The Court held:

When a habeas corpus petitioner seeks to initiate an appeal of the dismissal of a habeas corpus petition after April 24, 1996 (the effective date of AEDPA), the right to appeal is governed by the certificate of appealability (COA) requirements now found at 28 U.S.C. §2253(c). This is true whether the habeas corpus petition was filed in the district court before or after AEDPA's effective date.

Id. at 478. Applying Slack, this court has stated that "with respect to appeals initiated after the effective date of AEDPA in habeas proceedings commenced prior to that date, pre-AEDPA law governs the appellate court's review of the trial court's ruling while AEDPA's requirement of a certificate of appealability governs the right to appeal." Mackey v. Dutton, 217 F.3d 399, 406-07 (6th Cir. 2000).

Under post-AEDPA § 2253(c), a COA may issue only upon "a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." Also, a COA must "indicate which specific issue or issues satisfy the showing required." See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). Where appeals are initiated after AEDPA's effective date, but a district court granted a CPC rather than a COA, the reviewing court may consider an issue raised on appeal so long as that issue satisfies the statutory COA standards set forth in § 2253(c). See Mackey, 217 F.3d at 406-07.

Even though the district court originally issued a CPC, we need not undertake COA analysis of the issues raised by Stanford on appeal. In January 2001, the district court reconciled Slack and its progeny with the procedural history of Stanford's habeas petition. Because Stanford filed his habeas petition before AEDPA's effective date but filed his notice of appeal after AEDPA's effective date, the district court determined that a COA was required. Therefore, it sua sponte issued a COA "for all issues raised by [Stanford] in the petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the district court and presented to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the appeal currently pending before that Court." Stanford appeals fourteen of his habeas claims and, since a COA issued for each claim, we review all fourteen.

III. Standard of Review

Because Stanford's habeas petition was filed in January 1996, prior to the effective date of AEDPA, we apply the pre-AEDPA version of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 when reviewing the district court's denial of his habeas petition. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997). Under pre-AEDPA analysis, "[w]e review a district court's denial of habeas corpus relief de novo, but we review any findings of fact made by the district court for clear error." Combs v. Coyle, 205 F.3d 269, 277 (6th Cir. 2000). A state court's factual findings "are entitled to complete deference if supported by the evidence." Id. Under this presumption of correctness, a petitioner has the burden of "'establish[ing] by convincing evidence that the factual determination by the state court is erroneous.'" Coe v. Bell, 209 F.3d 815, 823 (6th Cir. 2000) (quoting McQueen v. Scroggy, 99 F.3d 1302, 1310 (6th Cir.1996)). This "presumption only applies to basic, primary facts, and not to mixed questions of law and fact" and "also applies to implicit findings of fact, logically deduced because of the trial court's ability to adjudge the witnesses' demeanor and credibility." McQueen, 99 F.3d at 1310.

Habeas review is not a broad exercise of supervisory power, but is limited to constitutional error. See Eberhardt v. Bordenkircher, 605 F.2d 275 (6th Cir. 1979). To be eligible for habeas relief on any given claim, a state prisoner first must fully and fairly present his claim, as a matter of federal law, to state courts. See Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). Merely raising an issue as a matter of state law will not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. See Riggins v. McMackin, 935 F.2d 790, 792-93 (6th Cir. 1991). So long as the petitioner has fully and fairly presented his federal claim to the state's highest court, that claim will be totally exhausted even if the state courts do not consider the claim on the merits. See Harris v. Rees, 794 F.2d 1168, 1173-74 (6th Cir. 1986).

Where a petitioner has not fully and fairly presented a federal claim to the state's highest court or when state courts have held that consideration of petitioner's claim is...

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