Young v. Herring, 84-4365

Citation777 F.2d 198
Decision Date26 November 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-4365,84-4365
PartiesJerry Lynn YOUNG, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Robert HERRING, Lee County Sheriff, and Donald A. Cabana, Superintendent, Mississippi State Penitentiary, Respondents-Appellants. Summary Calendar.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

Edwin Lloyd Pittman, Atty. Gen., William S. Boyd, III, Jackson, Miss., for respondents-appellants.

Jerry Lynn Young, pro se.

Brooks Eason, Jackson, Miss., (Court Appointed), for petitioner-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Before POLITZ, WILLIAMS and GARWOOD, Circuit Judges.

GARWOOD, Circuit Judge.

The appellee, Jerry Lynn Young, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, challenging the constitutionality of his armed robbery conviction in the Circuit Court of Lee County, Mississippi. The district court granted the writ of habeas corpus, finding that Young was denied due process of law by the admission of identification testimony based upon an impermissibly suggestive pre-trial photo array. The court vacated Young's conviction and ordered him discharged from custody unless the state elected to retry him within four months of the order. The appellants, Robert Herring, Sheriff of Lee County, Mississippi, and Eddie Milton Lucas, Warden, appeal the grant

of the petition, claiming that the district court erred in not applying the presumption-of-correctness rule of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d) to the Mississippi Supreme Court's finding that Young had not offered a timely objection to the identification testimony. Young cross-appeals based on the insufficiency of the evidence, requesting us to set aside his conviction without permitting a new trial. We reverse the district court's grant of the writ of habeas corpus.


On March 17, 1980, a man wearing a mask and carrying a sawed-off shotgun robbed the Presley Heights Branch of the Bank of Mississippi in Tupelo. At the time of the robbery, which lasted approximately two minutes, three tellers were working at the bank. The robber forced the tellers to lie face-down on the floor during the robbery. As the robber left the bank and entered his automobile, he was seen by a Tupelo police officer.

Three accomplices to the robbery testified at trial that Young robbed the bank. In addition, a gun salesman identified Young as the purchaser of the shotguns that were found with a portion of the stolen money. The police officer and two of the tellers offered descriptions of the robber, but could not identify Young as the man who robbed the bank. The third teller, Barbara Hoard, identified Young at trial as the robber. Immediately after the robbery, she was unable to tell the police who the robber was, but described him as a white man in his mid-twenties to early thirties, 5'5" to 5'7" tall, about 150 to 160 pounds, with light brown hair and gold-rimmed glasses. During the trial, Hoard testified that, through the holes in the robber's mask, she was able to see his glasses, eyes, mouth, the side of his face, and his hair color. 1 She stated that there was nothing distinctive about the robber's features to enable her to identify Young and that she did not know the color of the robber's eyes. In addition, Hoard testified that she knew Young by sight because he had been a bank customer (though it is not clear whether she knew him by name), but that during the robbery she did not recognize the robber as Young or as a bank customer. She also stated that, if she had seen Young on the street, she would not have recognized him as the robber. When Hoard, on direct examination, pointed to Young and identified him as the robber, Young's counsel stated: "Your Honor, I object to it because this witness said the robber was masked,--your Honor, we will go on to it in cross examination." The court overruled the objection.

On cross-examination, Hoard testified that she first identified Young as the robber when the Tupelo Chief of Police showed her an array of six photographs. She also testified that she viewed the photographs and identified Young's photograph as that depicting the robber. 2

At the conclusion of all Hoard's testimony, the trial recessed for the day. When it reconvened the next morning, Young's attorney moved to strike Hoard's testimony and for a mistrial "on the grounds that Mrs. Hoard made an alleged identification of the defendant from the photograph before she came into Court and made an in-court identification." The trial court denied these motions concerning Hoard's testimony. 3 Almost immediately thereafter Four of these six photographs were of men apparently in their early twenties; none of the men other than Young appeared to be near Young's age of thirty-seven. Two of the photographs were of men with glasses--one was Young and the other was a man with a beard. Young did not have a beard at trial or in the photograph, and there is no evidence that he had previously had a beard. Nor is there any record indication that anyone thought the robber had a beard. Young's name appears on his photograph.

                the trial court granted a defense motion for production of the photographs.  Later in the trial, the defense received the six photographs and, on the defense's motion, all six were put in evidence, it being stipulated that these were the photographs shown Hoard prior to trial. 4   All this occurred at the end of the prosecution's case and before the defense began putting its case on

After the jury returned its verdict, Young's attorney made a motion for new trial, claiming that Hoard's in-court identification was based on an impermissibly suggestive out-of-court identification. The trial court denied the motion. Young was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison.

Young challenged, among other things, the trial court's ruling on his motion to strike Hoard's testimony and his concurrent motion for mistrial, on his direct appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. That court held:

"Young's motion to strike the testimony and for a mistrial, dealt not with an allegation that the in-court identification was gained as the result of a suggestive or improper pre-trial identification procedure, but was on the sole basis that the witness' in-court identification came after a pre-trial photographic identification. Under this circumstance the lower court did not err in ruling the credibility of Mrs. Hoard's identification was for the jury to weigh." Young v. State, 420 So.2d 1055, 1059 (Miss.1982).

In granting Young's petition for habeas corpus, the district court found that the section 2254(d) presumption of correctness does not apply to the Mississippi decision, because "the Mississippi Supreme Court's interpretation of the objection made by the defendant is a mixed question of law and fact," and thus not binding on the federal court. The district court found that Young properly objected to the in-court identification and that the identification violated his due process rights.


Although the district court did not rule on all of Young's arguments in granting his petition for writ of habeas corpus, the court did not certify its order as a final judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Unless the district court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay and directs the entry of judgment, a partial disposition of a multi-claim civil action does not qualify as a final decision under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 5 and ordinarily is not appealable. Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir.1985). Although neither party Because the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not have unlimited application in habeas proceedings, 6 it is not clear whether Rule 54(b) applies to an appeal of a district court's decision in a habeas case. See Blake v. Kemp, 758 F.2d 523, 525 (11th Cir.1985); see also Miller v. Misfud, 762 F.2d 45 (6th Cir.1985) (Rule 54(b) does not apply to proceedings in which habeas and non-habeas claims are joined); United States ex rel. Stachulak v. Coughlin, 520 F.2d 931 (7th Cir.1975) (same), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 947, 96 S.Ct. 1419, 47 L.Ed.2d 354 (1976).

raises the point, we address it sua sponte since it is jurisdictional. Id.

In any event, because "[t]he sole purpose of habeas corpus proceedings is to test the validity or legality of the restraint of the petitioner," Martin v. Spradley, 341 F.2d 89, 90 (5th Cir.1965), an order granting a writ of habeas corpus based on fewer than all the asserted grounds is a final appealable judgment. Blake, 758 F.2d at 525. Federal appellate jurisdiction exists when the decision by the district court "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 2457, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978) (quoting Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 65 S.Ct. 631, 633, 89 L.Ed. 911 (1945)); accord Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir.1985). Thus, the district court's decision granting Young's petition for writ of habeas corpus is appealable in the absence of a Rule 54(b) certificate.

Presumption of Correctness

The appellants argue that the district court erred in not applying the section 2254(d) 7 presumption of correctness to the Mississippi Supreme Court's finding that the appellee did not raise the proper objection at trial. Section 2254(d) is of doubtful applicability in this case, however, because the facts are not really in dispute: the objection raised by the appellee is recorded in the trial transcript. The parties dispute the legal effect of the objection--whether the appellee preserved his due process claim that Hoard's in-court identification was the result of an improperly suggestive pre-trial identification procedure. The Mississippi Supreme Court's interpretation of the appellee's objection is a statement of Mississippi law that...

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