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Hawkins v. Davis

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

July 17, 2017




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

         The petitioner, Glenn Wane Hawkins, is in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and is currently housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville, Mississippi. Hawkins was convicted of one count of depraved heart murder in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Mississippi. On February 24, 2011, he was sentenced to serve life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). State Court Record (“SCR”), Vol. 2, p. 219.

         Hawkins appealed his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court raising the following issues through counsel:

Issue 1. Whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury's verdict of depraved heart murder.
Issue 2. Whether the jury was properly instructed on the distinctions between depraved heart murder and culpable negligence manslaughter and whether the trial court erred in failing to declare a mistrial when it was apparent that the jury was confused on the definitions of “depraved heart” as opposed to “culpable negligence.” On September 20, 2012, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

Hawkins v. State, 101 So.3d 638 (Miss. 2012), reh'g denied, Dec. 13, 2012 (No. 2011-KA-00557-SCT). Hawkins did not file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

         On June 28, 2013, Hawkins filed an “Application for Leave to File Motion for Post Conviction Relief” in the Mississippi Supreme Court, signed on June 26, 2013, raising the following issues pro se:

Issue 1. The State failed to present sufficient evidence in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the essential element of “criminal agency” necessary to establish the “corpus delicti” of a homicide to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis.
Issue 2. The trial court err[ed]where the Judge allowed the State to present the issue of self-defense through jury instruction in which [diverted] the jury's attention away from and nullified the defendant's true theory of defense “excusable homicide.” And [counsel] were deficient for giving up objections concerning this issue which prejudiced defendant.
Issue 3. The trial court committed reversible error by granting inadequate and incomplete jury instructions.

         On October 9, 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied the application. (Case No. 2013-M-01113). The court found that Hawkins' claims regarding the sufficiency of the evidence were barred under the doctrine of res judicata. Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-21(3). Further, the court found that Hawkins' claims regarding the weight of the evidence and the jury instructions were without merit - and procedurally barred under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-21(1) (failure to raise objections at trial or on appeal). The court held that Hawkins' claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed both prongs of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Id.

         Hawkins raises the following grounds for relief in the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (as restated by the court in the interest of brevity and clarity):

Ground One. The State failed to present sufficient evidence as to each element of depraved heart murder to prove Hawkins' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ground Two. Trial court erred giving inadequate jury instructions on the distinction between depraved heart murder and culpable negligence manslaughter.
Ground Three. Trial counsel provided ineffective assistance because he had no experience with murder cases, and depraved heart murder is a charge seldom brought in Mississippi.

         Facts Established at Trial[1]

         On February 22-23, 2011, Glenn Wane Hawkins was tried for the murder of Ms. Rita Fair, which occurred on or about August 16, 2007. Attorneys Christopher E. Bauer and Timothy B. Tucker represented Mr. Hawkins. The trial court held a suppression hearing prior to trial regarding the Hawkin's statement at the crime scene. SCR, Vol. 3, p. 27-61. After hearing from Deputy John Bishop and Hawkins, the trial court found that the Hawkins' statement at the crime scene was admissible. SCR, Vol. 3, p. 61-64. The court found that, at the time of the statement, Hawkins had not been arrested, detained, or taken into custody, and his utterance to law enforcement was spontaneous.

         At the suppression hearing, Deputy Bishop testified that, when he arrived at the crime scene, he was met by Hawkins at the front door. SCR, Vol. 3, p. 40. Bishop then asked Hawkins “what's going on, man?” Id. Hawkins answered by saying that “he killed her, ” then clarified that by saying “he killed Rita, ” the victim. Id.

         At trial, Deputy Curtis Knight testified that, when he arrived at the crime scene, he found Ms. Fair's body lying in a doorway. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 187. She was face-up on her back, and “had sustained severe trauma to her face, neck and her arms.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 188. Knight determined that the victim had recently had a full hysterectomy. Id. He then testified that photographs taken of the victim in the doorway were a “fair and accurate depiction” of the scene as he observed it on August 16, 2007. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 188-189.[2] Knight testified that the victim's right eye, as shown in photograph was “extremely swollen shut and discolored, ” and there was “blood” visible on her nose. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 197. She also had marks “around her neck” and on her arms. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 190. Knight believed these injuries to be indicative of “possible defensive wounds” indicating that the victim was trying to defend herself prior to her death. Id.

         While in custody, Hawkins stated, without being asked, that “she stabbed me.” Upon Examining Hawkins' chest, Knight found “two scratch marks.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 193. Knight stated that Exhibit 4, the photograph of the Hawkin's chest, was an accurate depiction of the scratches that day. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 194. There was no knife was anywhere at the crime scene. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 191. Knight also testified that the scratches appeared to be several days old, as he observed “festering.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 204. Deputy Knight testified that “a fake fingernail that the ladies wear” was seen was missing the victim's finger and was found on the floor near her body. Exhibit 2 (photograph showing finger nail on floor near the body of the decedent), SCR, Vol. 4, p. 195.

         The photographic evidence introduced at trial, and shown to the jury, included pictures of the victim taken at the crime scene. Photographic exhibits 2 and 3. Those photographs reveal extensive bruising to her face and neck. Id. Photograph 6 shows the victim's eye, black and blue and swollen completely shut, as well as bruising on her lip, cheek, forehead and the side of her nose. That photograph also showed blood in both her nostrils. Photographic exhibit 1 and defense exhibit 1 showed minor injuries to Hawkins' chest. Photographic exhibit 5 shows bruises to the side of the victim's neck, face, and arm.

         Dr. Steven Hayne, the State's pathologist, testified that he conducted the autopsy on the decedent, Ms. Rita Fair. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 213-260. Hayne testified that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the face and neck. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 234-235. He found that the bruises and abrasions were “consistent with being beaten.” SCR, Vol. 1, p. 223. He also testified that this trauma resulted in “cardiac arrhythmia” and “death, ” given her pre-existing coronary heart disease. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 234-235. Dr. Hayne testified that his examination determined that the victim suffered from “severe heart disease” and “hypertension.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 220, 235. Dr. Hayne found a three and a half inch bruise on the victim's face, as well as bruises on her right and left eyes, one eye swollen shut. There was a two and a half inch bruise and a half inch scrape below the right eye. There was a bruise below the chin about two and a half inches wide, as well as bruise on the lower lip. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 220-221. Dr. Hayne also found that there were “abrasions” and “bruises” to the victim's neck. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 221. There were also internal injuries to her “larynx, esophagus, and hyoid bone, ” in the front of the victim's neck. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 222. Hayne found the injuries to the victim's hands, arms, and body consistent with “defensive posturing injuries.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 222.

         Dr. Hayne testified that, based on national forensic standards, when a victim with coronary artery disease is subjected to blunt force trauma producing cardiac arrhythmia, the death is not classified as a natural death, but a homicide. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 235. Dr. Hayne believed, based upon the results of his autopsy, that this physical trauma produced a cardiac arrhythmia which resulted in the victim dying as shown in the photographs. SCR, Vol. 1, p. 236. While there were toxicology results indicating the victim had consumed alcohol and drugs, the forensic analysis indicated that these results were consistent with some degree of impairment, but not with “lethality.” Hayne testified that there would have been evidence of “cerebral edema” had that have been the case, and the autopsy revealed no such edema. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 232.

         Deputy John Bishop with the Monroe County Sheriff's office testified that, on August 16, 2007, he answered a call to investigate a possible death on Highway 45 north, just outside of Aberdeen. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 172. When he arrived on the scene, he encountered Hawkins at his opened door. When Bishop asked what was going on, Hawkins answered that “he killed her.” SCR, Vol. 4, p. 173. Bishop identified in the court room as the person who spoke these words to Bishop. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 173.

         At trial, a video cassette was played for the jury. In that cassette recording Hawkins stated that he told his son, “I killed her.” In addition, he says, “she pushed my button and we got into a tussle.” SCR, Vol. 4 and 5, p. 175-176; 382-383.

         At the conclusion of the State's case, Hawkins moved for a directed verdict, alleging a lack of evidence that his actions toward the victim could be considered depraved heart murder. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 277. The trial court denied a motion for a directed verdict. Id. The trial court found that the prosecution had made out a prima facie case, ...

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