United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
LEO L. LAURENT, Petitioner,
WARDEN FRANK SHAW, Respondent.
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND MODIFYING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.
BEFORE THE COURT is the  Report and Recommendation of Chief United States Magistrate Judge John M. Roper regarding Petitioner Leo L. Laurent's Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Magistrate Judge Roper determined that Laurent's Petition should be denied. Because Laurent timely filed objections to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 32), the Court reviews the objected-to portions de novo. See Kreimerman v. Casa Veerkamp, S.A. de C.V., 22 F.3d 634, 646 (5th Cir. 1994); Longmire v. Guste, 921 F.2d 620, 623 (5th Cir. 1991). Such a review means that the Court will consider the record which has been developed before the Magistrate Judge and make its own determination on the basis of that record. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980).
In doing so, it is the Court's opinion that Laurent is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief and that this action should be dismissed. The Court is further of the opinion that the findings of the Magistrate Judge should be adopted in part and modified in part as discussed herein.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On June 30, 2010, Laurent was convicted of one count of murder in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi and sentenced to serve life imprisonment in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Laurent moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial in the trial court, which was denied. He then appealed his conviction to the Mississippi Supreme Court. That court assigned the case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction. Laurent v. State, 94 So.3d 1232 (Miss. Ct. App. 2012), cert. denied, 96 So.3d 732 (Miss. 2012). Laurent then filed a Motion for Post-Conviction Collateral Relief in the Mississippi Supreme Court, which was also denied, as was his subsequent Motion for Reconsideration.
Laurent thereafter petitioned this Court for writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds: (1) failure to provide a speedy trial; (2) improper admittance into evidence of an incriminating statement; (3) failure to provide a trial by impartial jury; (4) denial of due process; (5) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (6) denial of a pretrial psychiatric examination; and (7) newly discovered evidence. (Pet. 5-15, ECF No. 1). Magistrate Judge Roper reviewed the Petition, the submissions of Laurent and Respondent Warden Frank Shaw, and the state court record, and entered a Report and Recommendation finding that Laurent's Petition should be denied and this action dismissed with prejudice. Laurent filed numerous objections to the Report and Recommendation, which are now before this Court.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which the parties do not dispute applies to this action, a writ of habeas corpus
shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
Applying this standard and after its own independent review, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Laurent's claims in Grounds One, Two, Three, Four, Six, and Seven of his Petition are procedurally barred. The Court modifies the Report and Recommendation to include that Laurent's claim of ineffective assistance of his direct appeal counsel is itself procedurally barred, and, thus, cannot serve as cause for granting relief from Laurent's waiver or stand as an independent claim. The Court further agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Laurent's claims in Grounds Five, Six, and Seven lack merit.
I. Procedurally Barred Claims
"When a state court declines to hear a prisoner's federal claims because the prisoner failed to fulfill a state procedural requirement, federal habeas is generally barred if the state procedural rule is independent and adequate to support the judgment." Sayre v. Anderson, 238 F.3d 631, 634 (5th Cir. 2001). If so, to obtain habeas review of his claims, a petitioner must demonstrate cause for and actual prejudice as a result of defaulting his claims based on this procedural bar, or that ...