Ward v. Wilson, Case No. 3:12-cv-00192-RLY-WGH

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
Decision Date22 September 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 3:12-cv-00192-RLY-WGH
PartiesROY LEE WARD, Petitioner, v. BILL WILSON, Superintendent, Respondent.
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Roy Ward, a state prisoner, challenges the validity of his conviction and sentence through his petition for writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the petition of Roy Ward for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice.

I. Applicable Law

"[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the successful petitioner must demonstrate that he 'is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'" Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)). Ward's petition is governed by provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). AEDPA

amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) to narrow the power of federal courts to grant habeas corpus relief to state prisoners. Under that Act, the critical question on the merits of most habeas corpus petitions shifted from whether the petitioner was in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States to a much narrower question: whether the decision of the state court keeping the petitioner in custody was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Avila v. Richardson, 751 F.3d 534, 535 (7th Cir. 2014).

A decision is contrary to clearly established federal law if the state court applies a rule that conflicts with a rule identified by the Supreme Court, or if the state court reaches a different conclusion than the Supreme Court in a case with materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). A decision involves an unreasonable application of clearly established law if the state court "identifies the correct governing legal principle . . . but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413, 120 S. Ct. 1495. Under both tests, mere error is not sufficient; a state court's decision must be "objectively unreasonable." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76, 123 S. Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003).

Simonson v. Hepp, 549 F.3d 1101, 1105-06 (7th Cir. 2008).

As explained by the Supreme Court, the AEDPA "places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); see also Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 337 (2003) ("Statutes such as AEDPA have placed more, rather than fewer, restrictions on the power of federal courts to grant writs of habeas corpus to state prisoners."). "The petitioner carries the burden of proof," Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011)—a burden the Court of Appeals has recently characterized as "daunting." Kubsch v. Neal, 2015 WL 4747942, at *36 (7th Cir. Aug. 12, 2015); see also Sanchez v. Gilmore, 189 F.3d 619, 623 (7th Cir. 1999)("A petitioner can also attack a state court's adjudication on the grounds that it is based 'on an unreasonable determination of the facts,' but such attacks are accompanied by a rigorous burden of proof: state court factual findings are presumed to be correctunless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with 'clear and convincing' evidence. [28 U.S.C.] § 2254(e)(1) . . . .").

"For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), 'an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.'" Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 410). "A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Id. (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)).

The first step under § 2254(d)(1) is "to identify the 'clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States' that governs the habeas petitioner's claims." Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S. Ct. 1446, 1449 (2013) (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 412; Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 122 (2009)). In proceeding with the analysis, a federal habeas court "must determine what arguments or theories supported, or, [in the case of an unexplained denial on the merits], could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme Court]." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011). If a state court's decision "was reasonable, it cannot be disturbed." Hardy v. Cross, 132 S. Ct. 490, 495 (2011) (per curiam). Emphasizing the stringency of this standard, which "stops short of imposing a complete bar of federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state court proceedings[,]" the Supreme Court has cautioned that "even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102 (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). And an unreasonable application of those holdings must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong; even clear error will not suffice. "As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisonermust show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.

II. Background

Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the court presumes the state court's factual determinations to be correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). "In § 2254 proceedings, federal courts are foreclosed from fact-finding. We therefore defer to the findings of the [state] court, which have not been challenged and are presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence." Jones v. Butler, 778 F.3d 575, 578 (7th Cir. 2015)(citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) and Harris v. Thompson, 698 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2012)).

A. The Crime

The evening of July 10, 2001, ended for the family of Roger and Julie Payne and their three children--Melissa, Stacy and Brian--as might have been expected for them in early summer. Julie Payne and Stacy Payne, age 15, attended the softball game of Melissa Payne, who was age 14. They arrived home at around 10:00 p.m. Stacy and Melissa changed clothes and went to bed in a room they shared.

On the morning of July 11, 2001, Roger and Brian awoke early and left for work. Julie also had to work that morning. After Roger and Brian left, Julie checked on Stacy and Melissa through the bedroom door and saw them lying asleep on the bedroom floor, as was their habit in the summer. Julie then left for work.

On that morning, Melissa awoke at 8:30 a.m., and Stacy awoke about 30 minutes later. When Melissa woke up, she went downstairs, watched some television, and went on the Internetto chat with friends via Yahoo Messenger. Then, at about 10:00 a.m., Melissa went outside to feed, water, and play with the family's Miniature Schnauzer. Afterwards, Melissa came back inside, watched more television, and at approximately noon went back upstairs to take a nap. Melissa saw Stacy on the telephone, on the Internet, and watching television that morning as well. Stacy was scheduled to work at Jenk's Pizza later that afternoon.

Pretending he was searching for a lost dog, Ward convinced Stacy to let him into the house. Melissa, who was upstairs sleeping, woke up to the sounds of Stacy's screams. Hearing the screams, Melissa came out of the bedroom, went to the top of the stairs and looked down. She saw Stacy on the ground with a man on top of her. Stacy was screaming. Melissa saw her sister and the man struggling. The man was holding Stacy down and hitting her.

Melissa went to her parents' room and dialed 911. Stacy was still screaming while Melissa was on the telephone. As she was screaming, Stacy pleaded with the man to "please stop, please stop," to which he responded, "you better be quiet." Police arrived within 10 minutes of Melissa's phone call.

Dale Town Marshal Matt Keller arrived first. Keller saw a black Pontiac Bonneville with Perry County plates parked at the residence. Keller then entered the house and saw Ward standing five to six feet from the door with a closed-blade knife in his hand and sweating. Ward dropped the knife when commanded to do so and went to the floor after Keller's second command to do so. Ward was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Keller contacted dispatch, informing them that he "had one in custody." He then moved Ward outside, took a couple of steps inside the home, and saw Stacy lying in a huge pool of blood in the kitchen area.

Stacy was nude from the waist down, with her abdominal contents "outside of her body." She was flailing her arms and legs and trying to speak. Keller positioned himself so that he could keep an eye on Ward and keep watch over Stacy while he waited for an ambulance.

Deputy Sheriff Dale Kessinger arrived at approximately the same time as the dispatched Emergency Medical Services crew. Ward was placed in Marshal Keller's car. Ward's front pocket contained a white piece of twine evidencing a red stain. The twine had blond hair wrapped up in it. Meanwhile, 911 operator, Dara Harris, had kept Melissa on the telephone as Keller had entered the Payne residence. Operator Harris could...

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