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Baker v. Crockett

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

October 21, 2013

KENNETH BAKER, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN JOHNNY CROCKETT, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Petitioner Kenneth Baker, Mississippi prisoner no. 51960, has filed a pro se federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state court conviction of statutory rape.[1] Having considered the submissions of the parties, the state court record, and the law applicable to Baker's claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied, for the reasons that follow.

Background Facts and Procedural History

Kenneth Baker was convicted of statutory rape in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi, and was sentenced by Order filed February 13, 2009, to a term of twenty-three years (23) in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. (SCR vol. 1, 46-48). Through counsel, Baker appealed his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court, claiming that his indictment was defective, and that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury as to the essential elements of the crime. On January 24, 2012, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed Baker's conviction and sentence. ( See Answer, Ex. A). See also Baker v. State, 95 So.3d 692 (Miss. Ct. App. 2012, reh'g denied, June 12, 2012, cert. denied, August 23, 2012 (Cause No. 2010-KA-01339-COA). Petitioner then filed a pro se "Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court on a Motion for Post-Conviction relief" and a motion for post-conviction relief in the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following issues:

A. The state failed to introduce any testimony evidence, including any documentary evidence, such as birth certificate or other record to prove [the victim's] age at the time the crime was alleged to have been committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The state never proved the age of the alleged victim on September 5, 2007.
B. Ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the 6th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution and Art. 3, Section 14, of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi. The appeal counsel never asserted that the trial counsel was ineffective and that the conviction was illegal where the victim never put on adequate proof of the actual age of the alleged victim. The prosecutor failed to establish[] in the record by direct testimony of any witness that [the victim] was under the statutory age on the date of the alleged offense.

On February 14, 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Baker's application, finding that the victim's age was proven by testimony, and that the application lacked merit and should be denied. ( See Answer, Ex. B) (Cause No. 2012-M-01994).

In his federal habeas petition, Baker raises the following claims:

Ground One: The state failed to introduce testimony evidence or any documentary evidence, such as birth certificate or other record, to prove alleged victim's age, at the time the crime was alleged to have been committed, beyond a reasonable doubt. The state never proved the age of the alleged victim on September 5, 2007. Such action denied due process of law in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Ground Two: Ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of 6th and 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Ar. 3, Section 14, of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi. The appeal counsel never asserted that the trial counsel was ineffective and that the conviction was illegal where the state never put on adequate proof of the actual age of the alleged victim. The prosecutor failed to establish[] in the record by direct testimony of any witness that [the victim] was under the statutory age on the date of the alleged offense.

Legal Standard

The Court's review of Baker's claims is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), because his federal habeas petition was filed after the statute's effective date. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997). The AEDPA prevents the grant of federal habeas relief on any claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless that adjudication (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the presented evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2); Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007).

A state court's decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court law if (1) "the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases, " or (2) "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [its] precedent." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405, 406 (2000). The "unreasonable application" clause is reserved for decisions that either fail to identify the correct governing law, or identify the correct governing law but misapply it to the case. Id. at 407. Under this standard, a state court's decision will not warrant federal habeas relief unless its application of federal law is both incorrect and unreasonable. Garcia v. Dretke, 388 F.3d 496, 500 (5th Cir. 2004). A reviewing habeas court considers ...


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