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Davis v. State

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

September 18, 2018

SAHEED DAVIS PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI RESPONDENT

          ORDER

          DANIEL P. JORDAN III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This habeas petition is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) [14] of Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball. Judge Ball recommended denying habeas relief and dismissing the petition. Petitioner Saheed Davis filed an Objection [18]; the State of Mississippi responded [20]; and Davis filed a Reply [21].[1] Having considered the parties' submissions and the applicable authority, the Court finds the Report and Recommendation should be adopted as the Court's opinion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Saheed Davis was convicted in state court for murdering Maurice Warner.[2] During a family gathering on December 25, 2008, Davis and Warner engaged in a verbal and physical altercation. The men separated, heading toward their respective vehicles, and before Warner could open his car door, Davis retrieved a gun and shot him 10 times. R&R [14] at 2. At trial, Davis's sole defense was that he shot Warner in self-defense. Id. at 2-3. The jury convicted Davis of murder, and he was sentenced to life-imprisonment. Id. at 3. The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence, and the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Davis's application for post-conviction relief. Id. Davis's federal petition raises three grounds for relief:

1. The district attorney should have recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
2. Defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by agreeing not to introduce the victim's prior convictions and bad acts.
3. Defense counsel was ineffective because he failed to request a heat-of-passion manslaughter instruction.

Id. Judge Ball found ground one procedurally barred. Id. at 3-7. As to grounds two and three, he found the state court's adjudications were not contrary to, nor did they involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court law. Id. at 7-14. He likewise found the state's factual findings were not unreasonable. Id.

         II. Grounds Two and Three

         Working in reverse order, grounds two and three allege ineffective assistance of counsel. The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected both arguments on the merits. See State Ct. R. [6-1] at 25-35 (PCR Mot.) (explaining position as to grounds two and three); id. [6-1] at 38 (PCR Order) (holding the claims do not meet the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)). These claims are therefore subject to a highly deferential standard of review:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Applying this standard to an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, “the question is not whether counsel's actions were reasonable. The question is whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's deferential standard.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011) (noting that “[t]he standards created by Strickland and ยง 2254(d) are both highly ...


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