Williams v. Pettigrew

Decision Date30 September 2020
Docket NumberCase No. CIV-17-258-RAW-KEW
PartiesJORDAN DEMETRIE WILLIAMS, Petitioner, v. LUKE PETTIGREW, Warden, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER

Now before the court is Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. 1]. Petitioner, a pro se prisoner in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, is currently incarcerated at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of one count of first degree murder, after former conviction of a felony, in Muskogee County District Court Case No. CF-2014-559 and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He is attacking his conviction and sentence and sets forth five grounds for relief:

I. The State's evidence failed to disprove Petitioner's defense of self-defense and thus fails to support his conviction and sentence for first degree murder.
II. The trial court abused its discretion by failing to sua sponte give instructions on heat of passion manslaughter, manslaughter by resisting criminal attempt and second degree murder, in violation of Petitioner's due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, §§ 7 and 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
III. Petitioner's rights to due process and a fair trial were violated by the improper admission of irrelevant and prejudicial character evidence in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, §§ 7 and 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
IV. Petitioner was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, §§ 7 and 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
V. The accumulation of errors deprived Petitioner of a fair trial and reliable verdict.

Respondent concedes the petition is timely and that Petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies for the purpose of federal habeas corpus review. [Doc. 9 at 2].1 The grounds for relief asserted by Petitioner herein were presented to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA), and the OCCA affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. Petitioner has not filed an application for post-conviction relief in the state district court. The following have been submitted for consideration in this matter:

A. Petitioner's direct appeal brief.

B. State's brief in Petitioner's direct appeal.

C. Petitioner's direct appeal reply brief.

D. OCCA opinion affirming Petitioner's judgment and sentence.

E. State court record.

F. Transcripts.

G. Trial exhibits.

Standard of Review

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, federal habeas corpus relief is proper only when the state court adjudication of a 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

As a preliminary matter, Petitioner has included claims specifically based upon the Oklahoma Constitution within Grounds II, III, and IV. Those portions of Petitioner's claims are denied. Claims grounded in a state's constitution are not cognizable on federal habeas corpus review. The Supreme Court has explained "it is not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations on state-law questions. In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991). See also Davis v. Reynolds, 890 F.2d 1105, 1109 n. 3 (10th Cir.1989) ("Alternative state claims, whether grounded in state statutes or the State Constitution, are not cognizable under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)." (citation omitted)).

Factual Background

The OCCA set forth the facts of the case as follows:

During the evening hours of July 2, 2014, Appellant shot and killed Rachelle Hayes in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She was found at approximately 11:00 p.m. slumped over on the porch of the residence at 328 Douglas Street. The occupant of the residence, Desmond Lewis, drove up to the house and upon seeing the decedent's body, honked his car horn. Thinking she was drunk, Mr. Lewis hoped she would wake up and leave. When the decedent did not stir, he notified his landlord, Natasha Franklin. Ms. Franklin and Mr. Lewis checked the decedent's body and did not find a pulse. Police and medical personnel were called and arrived at approximately 11:16 p.m. The decedent was pronounced dead. She was wearing a t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops. Her canvas bag was across her body. A book was found nearby. It was later determined that she had suffered eight bullet wounds to her chest and hands. Five projectiles were recovered from her body. Four .25 caliber shell casings were recovered from the scene.
After he shot the decedent, Appellant left the scene and called his cousin Jodie Simpson to pick him up. He told Mr. Simpson and girlfriend Karla Hernandez that he had just killed a woman. When they did not believe him, he said he was not lying and told Mr. Simpson to drive by the house on Douglas Street. Appellantsaid, "she got to be dead, because I shot her four times." When the group drove by the house, they observed the decedent slumped over on the porch. Appellant offered, "yep, she's dead. I shot her." Appellant told Mr. Simpson that he shot the decedent because she was drunk, insulted him, tried to hit him with her purse and tried to cut him with a box knife. Appellant told Ms. Hernandez he killed the decedent because as they were walking, the decedent kept "messing with him and calling him names" and she tried to hit him with a purse or a brick.
After driving around, Mr. Simpson parked at a nearby restaurant and he and Appellant got out of the car and walked to the house on Douglas Street. When Mr. Simpson and Appellant got to the porch, Appellant picked up the decedent's lifeless arm and said, "look at this, she's dead." Appellant then used the flashlight on his cell phone to look for shell casings in the yard so he could pick them up. Not finding any casings, the men left the scene and walked back to Mr. Simpson's car. Appellant told Mr. Simpson and Ms. Hernandez that "I done killed that bitch" and "that bitch is dead as a doornail." Appellant gave Mr. Simpson a .25 caliber handgun and a box of ammunition to hold for him. Mr. Simpson kept the gun and ammunition until Appellant was arrested when he took it to his grandmother's house and hid it in the closet.
During the ensuing investigation, Appellant was interviewed by police. He initially denied ever having any contact with the decedent. He subsequently admitted he shot the decedent at the house at 328 Douglas Street. Appellant explained that he was walking down the street and the decedent approached him and asked for money to buy liquor. Appellant said when he refused to give her money, the decedent insulted him and threw a bottle of Gatorade at him. Still insisting she needed a bottle of liquor, Appellant said she even offered sex in exchange for money. Appellant said he again refused. He said that about this time, a white pickup pulled up to a nearby stop sign. Appellant said the decedent told the people inside the pickup that he was crazy. He said that after the pickup drove off, he tried to calm her down but she was "trippin". He said she grabbed a brick she had in her bag and "nicked" him. Appellant said he thought she was going to beat him with the brick, so he shot her. He said that she was standing in the yard the first time he shot her and she fell back onto the porch. He said he shot her four more times. He admitted that after initially leaving the scene, he went back to see if the decedent was dead and to look for spent shells.

Williams v. State, No. F-2015-611, slip op. at 1-4 (Okla. Crim. App. Aug. 16, 2016) (unpublished). [Doc. 9-4 at 1-4]. The OCCA's factual findings are entitled to a presumption of correctness, unless Petitioner produces clear and convincing evidence to rebut the presumption. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

Ground I: The State's evidence failed to disprove Petitioner's defense of self-defense and thus fails to support his conviction and sentence for first degree murder.

Petitioner did not testify at trial, but he told two witnesses and law enforcement that he shot the victim, Rachelle Hayes. Petitioner claims he had reasonable grounds to believe that he was about to suffer great harm from the victim, and he acted in self-defense. [Doc. 1 at 5; Doc. 1-1 at 22]. After shooting the victim, Petitioner reportedly told his friend, Karla Hernandez, that the victim "kept messing with him, calling him names," and tried to hit him with a "purse or a brick." [Doc. 10-2 at 61, 72]. Petitioner reportedly told his cousin/friend, Jodie Simpson, that the victim was drunk, had called him a "n****r," had tried to hit him with her purse, and also had a box cutter. Id. at 91. In his second interview with law enforcement, Petitioner alleged that the victim "was attacking me, I shot her in self-defense, she was trying to beat me, hit me one time with the brick," that she "was trying to kill me over my money," and that "she was attacking me with everything she had."2 [Doc. 1-1 at 23; DVD+R, State's Trial Exhibit 18A]. Petitioner now directs the court's attention to these statements, claiming that "[u]nder these circumstances, any reasonable person would have believed that [Petitioner] was in danger of physical force or violence and that Ms. Hayes intended to do him physical harm." [Doc. 1-1 at 23]. And, according to Petitioner, "[n]o rational trier of fact could have determined that the State proved beyond a...

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