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Caves v. State

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

June 22, 2018

DONALD ALLEN CAVES, #73894 PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI RESPONDENT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN C. GARGIULO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, filed by Petitioner Donald Allen Caves. The Petition challenges Caves' 2014 conviction for failing to register as a sex offender and resulting enhanced sentence as a violent habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or probation. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and relevant legal authority, the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge recommends that Petitioner's request for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 be denied. Petitioner has not shown that the state court's decision was contrary to clearly established United State Supreme Court law, involved an unreasonable application of Supreme Court law, or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented.

         BACKGROUND

         Caves is a postconviction inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), last known to be housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Pearl River County, Mississippi, Caves was convicted on April 9, 2014, for failing to register as a sex offender, his fourth felony conviction. (Cause No. K2013-198M, ECF No. 1, at 1).

         Prior to this conviction, Caves was convicted of child molestation in 1990 and sentenced to serve a term of five years. (Cause No. 6404-1, ECF No. 8-1, at 14). In 1997, Caves was convicted as an accessory after the fact to automobile burglary and sentenced to five years. (Cause No. 9344-1, ECF No. 8-1, at 14). In 2005, Caves was convicted of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and sentenced to three years. (Cause No. K2004-200P, ECF No. 8-1, at 14-15).

         For his 2014 conviction, Caves was sentenced under Mississippi Code § 99-19-83, a violent habitual offender statute, to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole or probation. (ECF No. 8-1, at 38-40). Caves appealed. He was represented by counsel with the Office of State Public Defender, Indigent Appeals Division, and advanced two arguments:

1. Caves alleged that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of a defense witness Erica Fraught.
2. Caves alleged that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

See Caves v. State, 179 So.3d 1175 (Miss. Ct. App. 2015), reh'g denied, October 6, 2015, cert. denied, December 17, 2015; see (Cause No. 2014-KA-00643-COA, ECF No. 8-5, at 1-17).

         In a June 9, 2015 decision, the Mississippi Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not err in excluding Fraught's testimony and concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the jury's guilty verdict. (ECF No. 8-4, at 11-24). Caves' motion for rehearing was denied. (ECF No. 8-4, at 2). The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Caves' writ of certiorari. (Cause No. 2014-CT-00643-SCT, ECF No. 8-4, at 70).

         On May 26, 2016, Caves filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court a pro se Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court, raising four grounds for relief:

1. Jury member was Mississippi police officer fully clothed in state uniform
2. Two jury members were known to defendant and previously worked together
3. Defendant was subjected to jury members while fully dressed in MDOC stripes, waist and ankle chains prior to trial
4. Erica Fraught was not called as a witness in case trial

(ECF No. 8-7, at 10-12). Caves summarized the facts upon which his Application was based as follows:

I was accused of touching my girlfriends daughter and was picked up July 12, 2012. I was interviewed and read my rights, I was locked up in county jail on this date. My re-registration was set for July 17, 2012, so I missed my registration due to being locked up in Pearl River County jail.

(ECF No. 8-7, at 13) (all sic is original).

         The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Caves' Application, finding Caves' grounds for relief “without merit.” (Cause No. 2016-M-00756, ECF No. 8-7, at 9). Caves' petition for a rehearing was denied. Id. at 3. Caves filed the instant 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pro se on October 3, 2016, raising two grounds for relief as follows:

1. Trial court erred in excluding the testimony of Erica Fraught. The court denied Caves to call Fraught as a witness stating testimony was irrelevant. However, Fraught's testimony regarding Caves' capability of reading and writing and understanding the requirements of registration as a sex offender was essential to his case to show his intellectual ...

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