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Singleton v. Hood

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

July 9, 2015

JIM HOOD, ET AL., Respondents.


SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of Charlie Singleton for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has responded to the petition, and 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

Charlie Singleton is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and is currently housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. He was convicted of sexual battery in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi. SCR, Vol. 1, pg. 58. Singleton was sentenced to serve a term of fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years of post-release supervision - and to pay restitution. Id. at 85-87. Singleton appealed his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which assigned the appeal to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. In his appellate brief, Singleton raised the following grounds for relief, as stated through counsel:

I. Whether the evidence was sufficient to support Mr. Singleton's conviction for sexual battery?
II. Whether the verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence?

The court of appeals affirmed Singleton's conviction and sentence. Singleton v. State 16 So.3d 742 (Miss. Ct. App. 2009), reh'g. denied September 1, 2009 (Cause No. 2008-KA-00508-COA). Singleton did not seek certiorari review in the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Singleton then sought permission from the Mississippi Supreme Court to proceed with a petition for post-conviction collateral relief in the trial court, raising the following grounds for relief, as summarized by the court:

Ground One. Ineffective assistance of counsel:

A. Trial counsel failed to file motions or lodge objections based on the argument that the indictment did not contain the words "without her consent."
B. Trial counsel failed to file motions or lodge objections challenging jury instructions S-1 and S-2A.
C. Trial counsel had a conflict of interest because counsel and Singleton "could not agree on anything."
D. Trial counsel failed to file motions seeking a continuance in order to have the victim present or to lodge an objection to her absence.
E. Trial counsel did not raise an objection to Singleton's sentence on the basis that, as a prior felon, he was not eligible for post-release supervision.
F. Trial counsel failed to raise an objection based on the argument that the trial court failed to advise Singleton of the maximum and minimum sentence he was facing.
G. Trial counsel failed to file a motion to dismiss the charges for violations of the right to a speedy trial.
H. Trial counsel was ineffective because he did not represent Singleton on appeal; rather, his appeal was handled by the Indigent Appeals Office.[1]
I. Trial counsel failed to call Singleton's family and friends to testify as to his good character.
J. Trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the case.
Ground Two: The trial court erred in giving Jury Instructions S-1 and S-2A.
Ground Three: The trial court erred in giving Jury Instruction S2-A.
Ground Four: The indictment was insufficient because it lacked the words "without her consent."
Ground Five: The indictment was insufficient because it lacked the phrase, "Charlie Singleton a male person over the age of eighteen years of age."
Ground Six: Singleton's speedy trial rights were violated.
Ground Seven: The conviction and sentence were illegal because Singleton was a convicted felon and not eligible for post-release supervision.
Ground Eight: Singleton's rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated because the victim was not present at trial.
Ground Nine: The evidence was insufficient to support the conviction of sexual battery.
Ground Ten: Cumulative error.

The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Singleton's application for permission to proceed, holding, in relevant part:

The panel finds that Singleton's clam of ineffective assistance of counsel fails to meet the standard set out in Strickland v. Washington . The panel further finds that all remaining claims either were raised in previous proceedings or were capable of being raised. Those claims are procedurally barred. Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-21. Notwithstanding the procedural bar, the panel finds that those claims are without merit.

Exhibit B to the State's Response.

Singleton then filed a successive application post-conviction collateral relief, raising the same grounds for relief as those raised in his first application. On December 15, 2010, the Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed the petition as successive and, alternatively, found the claims to be without merit. Exhibit C to the State's Response.

On November 2, 2011, Singleton filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this court, raising the same grounds for relief as those raised in his motion for post-conviction collateral relief, listed above. Singleton has exhausted state court remedies as to the issues raised in the instant petition.

Evidence Adduced at Trial

Singleton is the victim's biological father, but he separated from her mother, Bonnie, when the victim was about three years old. SCR, Vol. 3, pg. 188. At that time, Singleton lived in Chicago. Id. Bonnie testified that the victim's birthday was August 21, 1986, and that the victim had schizophrenia and was mentally retarded. SCR, Vol. 2, pg. 95. In July of 2002, the victim and Bonnie were in Chicago for a family reunion, and Bonnie agreed to allow Singleton to see the victim. Id. at 97. Sometime around September of 2002, Singleton contacted Bonnie and asked if he could move to Mississippi to try to be a father to the victim. Id. at 98. Singleton eventually moved in with Bonnie, the victim, and Bonnie's other daughter, Lee, in September of 2002. Id. at 99.

At trial, Lee, who is the victim's half-sister, testified that, on September 27, 2003, she, the victim, and Singleton were at the house while her mother was at work. Id. at 80. Lee testified that she got up around 9:15 or 9:30 a.m. and went in to her mother and Singleton's room, where she saw the victim laying on a couch with no clothes on from the waist down. Id. at 82. She testified that, "[a]t that point Charlie had his face in between her legs[, ]" "[o]n her private part." Id. Lee testified "[f]rom what I seen - from what I seen as far as I can remember, he had his tongue in between her vagina." Id. at 83. Lee then ran upstairs to call her mother at work and informed Bonnie that Singleton was performing oral sex on the victim. Id. at 82-83. While Lee was on the phone with her mother, Singleton was on the other extension telling Bonnie that Lee was lying. Id. at 83.

After receiving Lee's phone call, Bonnie called 911, got a replacement to fill in for her at work, and went to the house. Id. at 101. When she arrived:

[the victim] was hysterical. She was pulling her hair out of her head. She was screaming. Lee Ashley was just hysterical. My bedroom was just disarrayed. It was like a mad person had just went through throwed clothes everywhere. The bed was tore up. Clothing was pulled out of the drawer. Everything was just messed up in there.

Id. at 101-102. Singleton had left the home in Bonnie's vehicle. Id. at 102. The victim was taken to the hospital. Id. Bonnie identified Singleton as the perpetrator and testified that the victim was 17 at the time of the crime. Id. at 103 and 107.

Carol Gartman, a nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital, performed a rape kit on the victim. Id. at 111. She collected "[f]ingernail scraping, a dried secretion, pubic hair combings, pulled pubic hair, oral swab, vulvar swab, vaginal swab, rectal swab, pulled head hairs, and a blood sample." Id. Gartman identified a photograph of the rape kit, which was marked as Exhibit 2. Id. at 113-114. Deedra Hughes of the Mississippi Crime Lab, testified that the dried secretions recovered from the victim tested positive for the presence of seminal fluid. Id. at 142. The Columbus Police Department requested a DNA examination of the secretions, so they were sent to Orchid Cellmark for further testing. Id. at 12-143. Lacy Bowen with Orchid Cellmark testified that she performed DNA tests on the dried secretions and the epithelial fraction of the secretions matched the victim's DNA, while the sperm fraction matched Singleton's DNA.[2] SCR, Vol. 3, pg. 163. Bowen testified that:

The results of the statistical analysis, the probability of finding a random, unrelated individual with the same profile as the sperm fraction of the dried secretions swab - and we calculate statistics for four main population groups in North America. These are those. For the black population, is it is one in 25.02 quadrillion unrelated individuals.

SCR, Vol. 3, pg. 165.

Eli Perrigin, an officer with the Columbus Police Department., testified that on the day of the sexual battery, Singleton came to the police station. Officer Perrigin stated, "[w]hile I was standing out in the parking lot, Mr. Singleton came around - came out of nowhere, and he walked up to me and said he needed to talk to me, you know, and something about he wanted to press ...

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