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Hood v. King

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

March 28, 2014

RONALD HOOD, Petitioner,
v.
RON KING, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DAVID BRAMLETTE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on the Petition (docket entry 1) and Supplemental Petition (docket entry 44) of Ronald Hood for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254; and on the Report and Recommendation (docket entry 49) of Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker entered in this cause on January 15, 2014. Magistrate Judge Parker recommends that the petitioner's § 2254 petition, as amended and supplemented, be denied and that this case be dismissed with prejudice. The parties were given fourteen days to serve and file written objections. The petitioner, by and through counsel, filed written objections, and the respondent filed a notice that he does not intend to file a formal response.

If one or more parties file written objections to a Report and Recommendation by a Magistrate Judge, the District Court is required to conduct a de novo review. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Such a review requires the Court to examine the entire record and to make an independent assessment of the law. The Court need not, however, conduct a de novo review when the objections are frivolous, conclusive, or general in nature. Battle v. United States Parole Commission , 834 F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987).

In this case, the petitioner presents the same arguments made in his June 10, 2013, Supplemental Habeas Corpus Petition, by simply attaching a copy of the petition. "No factual objection is raised when a petitioner simply re-urges arguments contained in the original petition." Baskin v. Scott, 2012 WL 5947584, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 28, 2012)(citing Edmond v. Collins , 8 F.3d 290, 293 (5th Cir. 1993)). "In these instances, the Court must only review the relevant portion of the Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation to determine whether the analysis or conclusions are either clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Id . (citing United States v. Wilson , 864 F.2d 1219, 1221 (5th Cir. 1989)).

On July 10, 2006, the petitioner, Ronald Hood, was indicted in the Circuit Court of Yazoo County, Mississippi, for exploitation of children, in violation of Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-5-31 and 97-5-33(5). The indictment was later amended to charge Hood as a habitual offender. Prior to trial, Hood, through his attorney, moved for a mental examination to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. The Circuit Court of Yazoo County granted Hood's motion, and Dr. W. Criss Lott conducted the examination. Hood's attorney did not seek a subsequent mental competency hearing, and the case proceeded to trial. Hood's wife testified against him at trial, and two videos of nude children that Hood allegedly possessed were shown to the jury. On December 11, 2007, Hood was found guilty of exploitation of children and sentenced as a habitual offender to serve a term of twenty years imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

On January 10, 2008, Hood filed a direct appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following issues: (1) whether the marital privilege caused his wife to be incompetent to testify; (2) whether the children in the video were engaged in sexually explicit conduct; (3) whether Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-5-31 and 97-5-33(5) are unconstitutionally vague; and (4) whether the prosecution made improper arguments which tended to inflame the jury against him. The issue of Hood's competency was not raised on direct appeal. On July 30, 2009, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment and sentence. Hood then filed a pro se motion for rehearing, but the supreme court denied his motion. Hood was not represented by counsel after direct appeal.

On June 17, 2010, Hood filed an application for leave to proceed in the trial court, and a motion for post-conviction relief. In his motion, Hood argued, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his trial attorney's failure to: move for a competency hearing; explain the benefits and/or consequences of going to trial versus accepting a plea deal; obtain a statement from Hood's wife saying that she did not want to testify; find another doctor to conduct the mental competency evaluation; call certain witnesses; make certain objections, arguments, and/or motions; call mental health facilities where Hood was housed to get mental heath records; strike certain jurors; and advise Hood about his right to a speedy trial. On July 22, 2010, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied his application and request for post-conviction relief. The supreme court found that Hood's ineffective assistance of counsel claim did not meet the standards set forth in Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and that he failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right as required under Mississippi law.

On August 9, 2010, Hood moved for reconsideration of his application for leave to proceed in the trial court. The supreme court denied reconsideration on August 25, 2010. Hood filed a second application on September 14, 2010, which was dismissed as procedurally barred on October 26, 2010.

On February 10, 2011, Hood filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court, challenging the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence. He asserted the following grounds for relief: (1) whether the marital privilege rendered his wife incompetent to testify; (2) whether the children in the videos shown at trial were engaged in "sexually explicit conduct"; (3) whether the statutes under which he was convicted were constitutionally vague; (4) whether the prosecutor made improper statements during opening and closing arguments; (5) whether the trial court erred by allowing the videos into evidence; (6) whether the petitioner was denied a fair trial because he was not allowed to view and inspect the evidence against him; and (7) whether the petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's failure to: (a) object to improper prosecutorial remarks; (b) object to the introduction of tampered evidence; © move for petitioner to examine the evidence against him (i.e., watch videotapes that were shown to the jury); and (d) adequately pursue a competency hearing. Hood alternatively asked this Court to reverse and remand his case so that he could accept the six-year plea deal originally offered to him by the prosecutor. Id. at 25.

On May 23, 2012, Hood filed a motion to amend his petition to add the following grounds for habeas relief: (1) whether counsel was ineffective for persuading the petitioner to go to trial rather than accept a plea offer; (2) whether the petitioner was denied a fair trial because he was not allowed to inspect the evidence against him; (3) whether the indictment should not have been read to the jury because it contained information about prior convictions; (4) whether the indictment was defective because it read "video, " instead of "videos"; (5) whether the prosecutor made improper remarks and referred to the petitioner by derogatory names; (6) whether jury instruction S-7 was improper and violated the petitioner's due process rights; (7) whether witnesses tampered with videotape shown at trial; (8) whether the petitioner was denied access to discovery documents; (9) whether the failure to conduct a mental competency hearing violated the petitioner's due process rights; (10) whether counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate the petitioner's mental illness history and failing to request a mental competency hearing; and (11) whether the petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel.

On December 4, 2012, Hood filed a "Writ of Habeas Corpus Relief Brief" ("memorandum brief"), which was interpreted by the Court as a request to further amend the petition. In the memorandum brief, Hood argued that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel; that the marital privilege rendered his wife incompetent to testify; that his indictment was defective; that he was not competent to stand trial or make a rational decision about whether to go to trial or accept a plea offer; and that there was insufficient evidence to show that he possessed the videotapes used against him at trial.

By Report and Recommendation dated January 30, 2013, Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker recommended that Hood's May 23, 2012 Motion to Amend, and his December 4, 2012 "memorandum brief" be denied, and that the Petition itself be denied on the merits. In recommending denial, Judge Walker found that the new claims asserted in the motion to amend and "memorandum brief" did not relate back to the date of the original petition and, therefore, were procedurally barred.

Following entry of Judge Walker's Report and Recommendation, this case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker. Hood filed various objections to the Report and Recommendation. On March 26, 2013, this Court adopted Magistrate Judge Walker's recommendation as to the motion to amend and memorandum brief and denied both motions. With respect to the habeas petition, however, the Court found that further investigation was necessary as to whether Hood should have received a competency hearing, and whether his attorney was ineffective for failing to pursue a hearing. The Court appointed Hood counsel to represent him and review his claim, and directed counsel to either "file an amended petition related to [Hood's] claims arising out of his failure to receive a competency hearing;" or "move for the Court to hold a hearing on this matter."

On June 10, 2013, Hood, through his appointed counsel, filed a supplemental petition raising the following issues: (1) whether Hood's trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel by (a) failing to request a competency hearing and (b) failing to investigate Hood's mental health condition; and (2) whether the trial court violated Hood's constitutional right to due process by failing to conduct a competency hearing. In the supplemental petition, Hood requested a hearing on the issue of whether his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to investigate his mental condition.

In response to the supplemental petition, respondent Ron King argued (1) that Hood's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to pursue a competency hearing, (2) that Hood's due process argument is procedurally barred, and (3) that Hood's ...


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