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Watson v. Byrd

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

October 18, 2017

DEXTER WATSON PETITIONER
v.
RAYMOND BYRD RESPONDENT

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          DAVID BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker's Report and Recommendation (docket entry 31) and Petitioner Dexter Watson's objections thereto (docket entries 34, 37). Magistrate Judge Parker recommends that the Court deny Dexter Watson's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (docket entry 1). Having reviewed the Report and Recommendation, Petitioner's objections, and applicable statutory and case law, the Court finds as follows:

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Watson is currently in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, serving a life sentence for murdering Patricia Dotson. Dotson died of blunt-force injuries, including a stab wound severing her jugular vein.

         Dotson's body was found near First Baptist Church in Port Gibson, Mississippi, on March 6, 2011. On the same day, the Chief Deputy of the Claiborne County Sheriff's Department interviewed Watson. The Chief Deputy noticed stains on Watson's shoes and scratches on Watson's arms. Watson stated that he had last seen Dotson several days earlier.

         Later, Watson was interviewed by an agent for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. Although Watson first told the agent that he had not seen Dotson in several days, he later stated that two men named “Cool” and “Little Will” murdered Dotson. Watson further claimed that he was outside a home, heard arguing inside, and entered to find Dotson alive but lying in a pool of blood. Watson stated that he witnessed two men load Dotson into the back of a car and dump her body. Watson said he wiped blood off of Dotson's body with his t-shirt before throwing it into an abandoned building. The agent was unable to locate the men Watson implicated and could not corroborate much of Watson's story.

         At trial, Watson's testimony cast “Cool” and “Little Will” as the murderers. Watson testified that before Dotson and “Little Will” went behind the church, “Cool” told him, “You better not open your mouth.” Watson further testified that when he went behind the church, he found Dotson bleeding. Dotson said a few words and then died.

         A Claiborne County jury found Watson guilty of murder, triggering a sentence of life imprisonment. The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, and the Mississippi Supreme Court denied his petitions for post-conviction relief. Watson filed Original and Amended Petitions for Habeas Corpus, raising ten grounds for relief:

(1) Watson was illegally arrested and unreasonably searched and seized.
(2) The evidence was insufficient to support Watson's murder conviction.
(3) The jury was improperly instructed.
(4) The jury was not instructed on the essential elements of the offense of murder.
(5) Watson's constitutional rights were violated when he was not afforded an initial appearance.
(6) Watson's trial counsel was ineffective in failing to conduct an adequate ...

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