Williams v. Williams

Citation232 F.Supp.3d 1318
Decision Date08 February 2017
Docket NumberCV 415–292
Parties Jarnard M. WILLIAMS v. Warden Stanly WILLIAMS
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia

After an independent review of the record, the Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, to which objections have been filed. Accordingly, the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge is adopted as the opinion of the Court.

So ORDERED, this 8th day of February, 2017.



Following affirmance of his conviction for, inter alia , felony murder, Williams v. State , 290 Ga. 533, 540, 722 S.E.2d 847 (2012), Jarnard M. Williams unsuccessfully sought state habeas relief, doc. 14–22,1 certificate of probable cause to appeal denied , doc. 14–23, and now petitions this Court for federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. 1. Sentenced to life plus twenty years, Williams , 290 Ga. at 540 n. 1, 722 S.E.2d 847, Williams' core claim is that his prosecutor violated her Brady /Giglio2 duty. After a thorough review of the record, the Court finds that the State court misapplied controlling Supreme Court precedent and unreasonably concluded that the state prosecutor had not made a side deal regarding the future prosecution of a key state witness when, in truth, not only had such a promise been made, but the prosecutor deliberately concealed that promise from the jury. Williams has shown, therefore, that he is entitled to federal habeas relief from his conviction.


Petitioner's Brady claim pivots on the testimony of Isaac Kemp Fitzgerald, the prosecution's star witness who vacillated when asked to positively identify Williams as one of the men who assaulted the group that he was in. As noted above in footnote 2, this claim is fact and context-sensitive, necessitating detailed factual recitation and case-comparisons. Williams has no quarrel with the Georgia Supreme Court's recitation of the facts:

At about 5:00 p.m. on October 25, 2007, [Wymberly] Baker, [Donald] Robinson, Isaac Fitzgerald, and Tereen Graham were talking in front of Baker's house in Savannah, Georgia, when a stolen black Toyota Highlander with three or four people in it pulled up. Two men got out and said they were there to rob the victims, who began running. The two men then began shooting. Baker was fatally shot in the chest, and Robinson was shot in the arm. After [Williams' co-defendant, James] Mitchell went through Baker's pockets, the two shooters jumped back in the SUV and fled the scene.
Shortly after the shootings, the police found the Highlander abandoned, with the doors open and the engine running. The two guns used in the shooting, a Tech–9 and a 9mm pistol, were later found near where the SUV was parked. An officer driving near the location of the SUV saw [Williams], who fit the description of one of the suspects and appeared out of breath, walking down the street. [Williams] was detained, and a detective told the officer to interview him and then release him, which the officer did.
Venus McKinney, who has a child with [Williams], voluntarily went to the police station on the day of the crimes. She told a detective that the night before, [Williams] and Chevis Borrum had come to her house in a black SUV; they drove around for a while; [Williams] parked the vehicle on the street; he spent the night with her; and he had a 9mm gun. McKinney told the detective that [Williams] left the house in the morning but came back and knocked on her window and asked her to hand him his gun, which she did. McKinney also said that the police had allowed [Williams] to call her when he was detained and she had falsely told the officer that [Williams] was with her at the time of the crimes. The detective testified that between the time of her statement and the trial, McKinney never told him that her story was untrue. At trial, however, McKinney recanted her statement, claiming that she gave the police false information because she became upset with [Williams] after seeing him earlier on the day of the crimes with one of his old girlfriends.
Jamel Williams testified that he knows both Mitchell and [Williams] because he sold them marijuana. On the day of the crimes, Mitchell, [Williams], and another man came to his house in a black SUV, and Jamel got in to make the transaction. Although Jamel testified at trial that he did not know if there were any weapons in the car and did not know the other man's name, the detective testified that, in a pre-trial statement, Jamel said that Mitchell had a Tech–9 and [Williams] had a 9mm handgun at the time of the drug sale and that Chevis Borrum and Eric Brown were also in the SUV.
Borrum testified that [Williams] was his "partner" and they had known each other about eight years. On the day of the crimes, Borrum said, he was walking with [Williams] when they were stopped and questioned by a police officer. However, he claimed not to recognize the black Highlander and denied being in it that day, saying that he was out walking when he ran into [Williams] on the street in the neighborhood where the SUV was found and they both live.
At trial, Fitzgerald identified Mitchell as one of the two shooters, but said that he could not identify the other assailant because the man was wearing a bucket hat and "kinda covering his face" with his shirt. On October 26 and December 20, 2007, the detective had shown Fitzgerald six-person photo lineups that included [Williams'] photograph. In the October 26 lineup, Fitzgerald circled [Williams'] photo but said he was not positive about the identification and wrote "a little bit" under the photo. The detective testified that Fitzgerald appeared scared and hesitant at that time. In the December 20 lineup, which used a clean copy of the same lineup card, Fitzgerald identified [Williams] as one of the shooters without qualification. Fitzgerald also testified that he had been reluctant to tell the police who the shooters were because he was "real scared about what happened." He added that two or three months after the crimes, he saw [Williams] at a bar, and [Williams] had come over and stood behind him until he and his friends moved.
Although Green and Robinson identified Mitchell as one of the shooters, neither could identify the second shooter. Robinson did testify, however, that Mitchell had a Tech–9 and the other shooter used a 9mm gun.

Williams , 290 Ga. at 533–35, 722 S.E.2d 847 (emphasis added).

That court ruled that sufficient evidence supported petitioner's conviction. Williams , 290 Ga. at 535, 722 S.E.2d 847. Williams does not challenge that. Instead, "raising the same claims raised in his state habeas corpus petition," doc. 21 at 2, he recapitulates the Brady and ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims resolved against him on his direct and collateral appeals. Docs. 1 & 21. Those claims must be reviewed under The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).


The AEDPA bars federal courts from granting habeas relief to a state petitioner on a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's 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).

The case law has fleshed out these statutory terms. On the "facts" prong, § 2254(d)(2), the Court "must presume the state court's factual determinations are correct, unless the petitioner rebuts that presumption with ‘clear and convincing evidence.’ 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)." Jones v. Sec'y Fla. Dept. of Corr. , 834 F.3d 1299, 1311 (11th Cir. 2016). That's a tough showing to make: "The state court's decision must have been more than incorrect or erroneous. It must have been objectively unreasonable. If the AEDPA standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be." Id. (quotes, cites, and alterations omitted).

As for the "law" prong, § 2254(d)(1),

a state court decision is based on an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law when it (1) "identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case," or (2) "either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply." [Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 407, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000) ]. The " ‘unreasonable application’ inquiry ... ask[s] whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409, 120 S.Ct. 1495. This "requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or erroneous." Lockyer v. Andrade , 538 U.S. 63, 75, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003) ; see Harrington v. Richter , 562 U.S. 86, 101, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011) ("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." (internal quotation marks omitted)).

McCartney v. Sec'y, Fla. Dept. of Corr. , 662 Fed.Appx. 664, 668, 2016 WL 5349213 at *4 (11th Cir. Sept. 26, 2016) (footnote omitted). "[A] state court's decision must be not merely wrong but so wrong that no reasonable judge could have reached that decision." Dassey v. Dittmann , 201 F.Supp.3d 963, 986, 2016 WL 4257386 at *18 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 12, 2016) (citing Woods v. Donald , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376, 191 L.Ed.2d 464 (...

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