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Pittman v. Epps

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

August 5, 2014

RANDALL PITTMAN, #16050, Petitioner,
v.
CHRISTOPHER EPPS, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Randall Pittman's ("Petitioner") Objections [27] to the Report and Recommendation [26] ("Report") filed by United States Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker on July 3, 2014. After thoroughly reviewing the Report [26], the record, Petitioner's Objections [27], and the relevant law, the Court finds that the Magistrate properly recommended that the Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [1] ("Petition") be denied and dismissed with prejudice. The Court therefore concludes that Petitioner's Objections [27] should be overruled and that the Magistrate's Report [26] should be adopted as the opinion of the Court.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioner was convicted of two counts of murder in the Circuit Court of Perry County, Mississippi. Pittman v. State, 42 So.3d 556, 559 (Miss.App. 2009). His conviction was affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals, id. at 562-63, and the Mississippi Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeals decision. Pittman v. State, 42 So.3d 24 (Miss. 2010). Petitioner applied to the state supreme court for leave to file a motion for post-conviction relief with the trial court. ( See S.C.R. [11-12] at pp. 2-3.) His application was denied. ( See S.C.R. [11-13] at p. 450.)

Petitioner then filed his Petition [1] requesting a writ of habeas corpus on July 27, 2011, which was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker. The Magistrate issued his Report [26] on July 3, 2014, with the recommendation that the Petition [1] be denied and dismissed with prejudice. Petitioner then filed a Notice of Right to Object in Accordance with the Rules and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) [27] ("Objections"), objecting to the Magistrate's findings on his claims of false testimony due to prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel. ( See Objections [27] at p. 2.) Respondent filed Notice [28] of the State's intent not to file any formal response to Petitioner's Objections [27] on July 23, 2014.

III. DISCUSSION

A federal court has the authority to grant a writ of habeas corpus if a state court decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law" or if the decision was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state court decision is contrary to federal precedent if it is "diametrically different" to clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 406, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). The state court decision involves an unreasonable application of federal law if it were "objectively unreasonable." Neal v. Puckett, 286 F.3d 230, 236 (5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 409, 120 S.Ct. 1495 (O'Connor, J., concurring)). The application is reasonable, though, if "fairminded jurists could disagree on its correctness." Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664, 124 S.Ct. 2140, 158 L.Ed.2d 938 (2004)).

A habeas court does not have the authority to grant a writ of habeas corpus unless all state court remedies have been exhausted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). However, a claim is presumed to have been adjudicated on the merits by the state court even if the state court's reasoning does not address federal law specifically. Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 784-85. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Petitioner's request for post-conviction relief in his Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court, (S.C.R. [11-13] at p. 450), the Court assumes under Richter that all claims in the application were adjudicated on their merits and all federal law was appropriately considered.

The portions of the Magistrate's Report [26] not objected to are subject to review under a clearly erroneous standard. Williams v. K & B Equipment Co., Inc., 724 F.2d 508, 510 (5th Cir. 1984). As such, they will only be reversed if the Court is "left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Id. (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948)). After a thorough review of the Report [26], the Petition [1], the state court record, and the relevant law, the Court finds no such mistake and adopts the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate in the non-objected to portions of the Report [26] as the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner raises three grounds in his Objections [27] to the Report [26]: false testimony and prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel. ( See Objections [27] at p. 2.) Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the Court reviews these claims de novo. The Court finds that none of the three grounds in Petitioner's Objections [27] have merit. The Court therefore overrules Petitioner's Objections [27] and adopts the entirety of the Report's [26] findings as the opinion of the Court.

A. False Testimony and Prosecutorial Misconduct

To show a violation of due process due to false testimony, Petitioner must show that "(1) the testimony was actually false, (2) the state knew it was false, and (3) the testimony was material." Faulder v. Johnson, 81 F.3d 515, 519 (5th Cir. 1996). The truth of the testimony given is a question of fact. For the Court to grant habeas relief, then, Petitioner would have to show that the determination of the truthfulness of the testimony was unreasonable in light of all the evidence presented in court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). Petitioner has failed in this respect.

Petitioner's main arguments under this claim deal with inconsistencies between the video surveillance tape and the testimony given by Freida Stewart, as well as the inconsistences in the testimony of Iyanter Norris concerning Petitioner's wallet. ( See Objections [27] at pp. 3-6.) These arguments, though, were never made to the Magistrate. The Fifth Circuit has held that "issues raised for the first time in objections to the report of a magistrate judge are not properly before the district judge." Finley v. Johnson, 243 F.3d 215, 219 n.3 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Armstrong, 951 F.2d 626, 630 (5th Cir. 1992)). Even without this procedural bar, Petitioner has failed to show ...


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