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Peterson v. Huffman

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

June 25, 2014



SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Petitioner Thornton Peterson, Mississippi prisoner no. 28395, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his State court conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Having considered the submission of the parties, the State court record, and the law applicable to Petitioner's claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.

Background Facts[1] and Procedural History

On August 10, 2001, the Indianola Police Department served a search warrant for 407 Clay Street, Indianola, Mississippi. Petitioner was one of several people discovered inside the house. The house contained a room padlocked from the outside. When police pried open the padlock, they discovered nineteen grams of crack cocaine and three razor blades on a table inside of the room. Petitioner attempted to flee the house and was detained. A set of keys was removed from his pocket, and one of the keys opened the padlock to the room where the cocaine was found. Petitioner was subsequently indicted for the possession of nineteen grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He was charged as a subsequent offender under Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-147 and as an habitual offender under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81.

At Petitioner's trial, the jury heard testimony placing Petitioner at the house on Clay Street on numerous occasions, and a water department employee testified that water service to the house had been connected in Petitioner's name in 2000.[2] One of the tenants of the house, an admitted cocaine addict, testified that she sold drugs out of the house for Petitioner in exchange for drugs for her own use. The witness, who was given immunity in exchange for her testimony against Petitioner, testified that Petitioner did not reside at the house but came by often to do business. She also claimed that he was the only person who had a key to the padlocked room where the drugs were found, and that the room was off-limits to tenants.

On February 19, 2004, Petitioner was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in the Circuit Court of Sunflower County, Mississippi, and was thereafter sentenced as an habitual offender to serve a term of sixty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. ( See SCR vol. 1, 78-79). Petitioner filed a motion for a new trial, or alternatively, for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The motion was denied by the circuit court. With the assistance of counsel, Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence. The Mississippi Supreme Court assigned the case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. (Answer, Ex. A); see also Peterson v. State, 37 So.3d 669 (Miss. Ct. App. 2010), reh'g denied, June 22, 2010 (Cause No. 2004-KA-00642-COA). Petitioner did not seek certiorari review of the decision.

Petitioner, proceeding pro se, thereafter sought permission to proceed in the trial court with a petition for post-conviction collateral relief. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Petitioner permission to proceed with a post-conviction motion. ( See Answer, Ex. B) (Cause No. 2011-M-00360). Petitioner filed the instant petition on or about July 21, 2011, raising the following claims, as paraphrased by the Court:

Ground One: Petitioner's indictment was improperly amended, thereby denying him due process of law.

Ground Two: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to the motion to amend the indictment to charge the petitioner as an habitual offender.

Ground Three: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to prepare a defense of Petitioner's case.

Ground Four: Petitioner was subjected to an invalid search warrant, and the evidence obtained as a result of that warrant was admitted at trial in violation of his constitutional rights.

Ground Five: The trial court improperly denied Petitioner's motion to suppress evidence.

Legal Standard

The Court's review of Petitioner'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 prohibits 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 ...

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