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Forrest v. Attorney General of The State of Mississippi

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

July 29, 2014

JOHN ARTHUR FORREST, Petitioner,
v.
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, ET AL., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MICHAEL P. MILLS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of John Arthur Forrest for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Forrest has also filed a supplement to his petition. The State has responded to both the petition and supplement, and Forrest has filed a traverse. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be denied.

Procedural Posture

John Arthur Forrest is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and is currently housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville, Mississippi. Forrest was convicted in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Mississippi, of Count I: Aggravated Assault, and Count II: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. See State Court Record ("SCR"), Vol. 1, p. 41. On October 12, 2009, Forrest was sentenced to serve twenty years for the assault charge and ten years for the firearm charge in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Count II to run consecutively to Count I. SCR, Vol. 1, p. 41. In addition, the court found that, as Forrest is a habitual offender under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81, he is not eligible for parole, probation, or any other type of early release. Id.

Forrest appealed his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following issues (as stated by counsel):

Issue 1. Whether the Trial Court erred in not ordering a competency hearing sua sponte.
Issue 2. In the alternative, whether the appellant was denied effective assistance of counsel, depriving appellant of his constitutional right to a fair trial.

On November 10, 2010, the Mississippi Court of Appeals found no merit to these issues and affirmed the judgment of the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Forrest v. State, 47 So.3d 1194 Miss.Ct.App. 2010)(Cause No. 2009-KA-01729-COA).

On November 7, 2011, Forrest filed a pro se Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court with a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief in the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following issues (as stated by Forrest):

Issue 1. Petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel where the state violated his 5th amendment rights which was unchallenged at the trial court.
Issue 2. Petitioner was denied due process where the state introduced in to evidence which was never printed or proven to be the weapon defense counsel was ineffective by not retaining a defense expert to rebut the state allegations. The gun submitted at trial was [not] petitioners and the weapon used when crime committed in violation of his 5th 6th and 14th amendments.
Issue 3. Petitioner was denied due process when the state erroneously state at trial petitioner had blood on his hand when arrested, but failed to collect the samples for DNA testing, no testing results in an admission petitioner in fact had no blood on his hands when arrested. This denied petitioner due process and violated his 5th, 6th, and 14th amendment.
Issue 4. Where the trial court erred in not ordering a competency hearing sua sponte.
Issue 5. In the alternative, whether the appellant was denied effective assistance of counsel, depriving appellant of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Issue 6. Petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel where the state introduced prejudicial evidence during trial that should have been stipulated by the parties. This inadmissible evidence being submitted at trial denied petitioner his 14th amendment right to a fair trial with effective assistance of counsel.
Issue 7. Petitioner sentence violates his 8th amendment right due to it being tantamount to a life sentence a sentence the conviction fail to impose.

On January 19, 2012, the Mississippi Supreme Court filed an order denying the application. See Miscellaneous Pleadings, Cause No. 2011-M-01653.

In the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Forrest raises the following issues ( pro se ):

Ground One. The trial court erred in not ordering a competency hearing, and both trial and appellate counsel were ineffective in failing to raise that issue.
Ground Two. Defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he never sent the shotgun to the crime lab to check for fingerprints or DNA, and he should have requested a competency hearing.
Ground Three. The court improperly enhanced the petitioner's sentence under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81 because he did not actually serve a term of incarceration of year or more on his prior conviction for attempted grand larceny.

The court permitted Forrest to submit a supplement to his habeas corpus petition, and the State responded to that, as well. The supplement to the petition sets forth the following issues:

Ground One. Petitioner did not knowingly or intelligently waived his Miranda rights. As such, any statements made at time of his arrest were inadmissible. Trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to raise this issue.
Ground Two. Petitioner's right to a fair trial was violated where the state introduced unreliable evidence at trial regarding the charge of felon in possession of a firearm, thus violating his due process right. Trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to raise this issue.
Ground Three. Petitioner was denied the right to a fair trial and due process of the law where the state introduced unreliable and unfounded testimonial evidence at trial with no factual basis to support it. Trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to raise this issue.
Ground Four. The trial court erred in not ordering a competency hearing sua sponte, and trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance ...

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