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Richardson v. Epps

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

August 1, 2014

SHERRY RICHARDSON, proceeding on behalf of Michael Shane Richardson, Petitioner,
CHRISTOPHER EPPS, et al., Respondents.


SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Petitioner Sherry Richardson is challenging Michael Shane Richardson's ("Richardson") State court convictions for capital murder and the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.[1] Having considered the submission of the parties, the State court record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.

Background Facts and Procedural History

In September 2006, Richardson lived near Harvey Evans and Evans' girlfriend, Sherrie Halverson, in Columbus, Mississippi. Richardson was friendly with the couple, and Evans had occasionally provided Richardson with transportation and financial assistance. On September 19, 2006, Richardson went to the couple's home and Halverson let Richardson inside the home. Halverson then left the room, leaving Richardson and Evans alone. Later, Halverson heard Evans "hollering" and ran into the room to find Evans lying on the floor, Richardson standing over him, and a baseball bat rolling on the floor. Richardson ran. Evans told Halverson that Richardson had hit him in the head with the bat. Evans' two wallets were missing, as was all of his cash. Evans was hospitalized for his injuries and died on January 4, 2007, from injuries related to the September attack.

After attacking Evans, Richardson went to Beverly Gurley's home and purchased cocaine. He shared the drug with others, including Beverly's brother, Arthur Price, who testified that Richardson admitted to Price that he had robbed a man and taken his money. Price testified that Richardson paid for all of the drugs they consumed that evening.

Later the same evening, Richardson went to Barbara Tenney's home, and Richardson, Tenney, and Sarah Gibson traveled to Alabama with the intention of visiting one of Tenney's friends. Gibson testified that she and Richardson smoked crack cocaine on the way back to Mississippi, and that Richardson told her that he had "done something bad[.]" When they returned to Mississippi, Gibson and Richardson smoked crack cocaine again before going to an apartment complex, where Richardson purchased two guns. Gibson and Richardson went to a Super 8 motel, where they were joined by McKenzie Barham. The three smoked more crack cocaine.

Gibson left the motel, and shortly thereafter, Barham and Richardson left the motel, as well. Barham and Richardson returned to Beverly Gurley's house. They stopped at a convenience store along the way, and Barham testified that Richardson gave her a $100 bill to pay for gasoline and cigarettes. Barham testified that Richardson had two guns in his possession when they arrived at the home, but she stated that he threw one of the guns in Gurley's backyard. Barham stated that Richardson paid for the drugs she used the evening of September 19, 2006.

On September 20, 2006, Richardson called 911 and turned himself in to law enforcement. Officer Terry Gentry of the Columbus Police Department arrived first, followed by Investigator Terry Cooper of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department. Investigator Cooper testified that Richardson asked about Evans' condition and "kept apologizing and wanted to know how Harvey was." Richardson was transported to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department, where he was read his Miranda rights[2] and signed a waiver of rights form. Richardson provided a statement in which he admitted that he attacked Evans, stole his money, and used the money to purchase drugs and guns. He maintained that a man named Kenny Jones knew beforehand that Richardson planned to attack Evans and take his money, and that Jones was supposed to meet Richardson after the robbery and distribute the money to others. Richardson concluded his statement to police by asserting: "I didn't know I had hurt Harvey as bad as I did." Law enforcement officers located the guns where Richardson stated they would be found and began making other arrests in the case. Investigator Cooper testified that he received letters from Richardson while Richardson was in prison in which Richardson acknowledged that he had attacked Evans.

At trial, Richardson attempted to show that Kenny Jones planned the crime. Barbara Tenney, who dated Jones at the time of the attack, testified that she saw Jones with several hundred dollars on the day of the attack. However, she also testified that, on the ride to Alabama on September 16, Richardson stated that he needed new clothes because he had blood on his pants. She also testified that Richardson stated he hoped Evans did not die, because "[h]is eyes rolled back in his head when I hit him." Richardson also testified, admitting that he attacked Evans with a bat and took his wallets. He also admitted to purchasing the guns.

Richardson was convicted of capital murder (Count I) and being a felon in possession of a weapon (Count II) in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi. Following a sentencing hearing, he was sentenced to life without parole on Count 1 and a consecutive term of ten years on Count 2. He appealed his convictions and sentences to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which affirmed the trial court. See Richardson v. State, 74 So.3d 317 (Miss. 2011), reh'g denied, December 1, 2011 (Cause No. 2010-KA-00511-SCT). He did not file a petition for post-conviction relief in the trial court pursuant to Mississippi's post-conviction relief statutes. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-1, et seq. Richardson filed the instant petition on or about February 26, 2013, raising the following grounds, as paraphrased by the Court:

Ground One: Error in refusing to suppress statement.
Ground Two: Error in refusing to sever counts.
Ground Three: Error in denying motion to exclude evidence of other crimes.
Ground Four: Error in admitting photos of the victim's brain.

Legal Standard

The Court's review of the claims raised in the instant petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), because the 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, 412 (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 these standards, 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 only ...

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