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Sanders v. Hall

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

January 7, 2019




         Petitioner Marterius Sanders, a Mississippi inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the conviction and sentence for sale of a controlled substance that he received in the Circuit Court of Lee County, Mississippi. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the State-court record, and the law applicable to Sanders' claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.


         Background Facts and Procedural History

         The Mississippi Court of Appeals found the following facts:

On September 11, 2014, Chris Brown, a multijurisdictional narcotics agent, mobilized James White, an undercover confidential informant (CI), to purchase $200 worth of crack cocaine from a female named Karashawanna Fields. White was given the money to purchase the drugs and was fitted with an audio-video recording device. When White called Fields to verify their meeting location, Fields changed the rally point to a nearby apartment complex instead. When White arrived at the location, the video recording captured him interacting with a black male- later identified as Sanders-and exchanging the $200 for an item later confirmed to be 1.65 grams of crack cocaine. The video showed Sanders approach White, give him a clear plastic bag with a white substance inside, shake White's hand, and walk away.
After the transaction was complete, White called and notified Agent Brown and then traveled to Agent Brown's office. Upon arriving at the office, White participated in the postsale interview conducted by Agent Brown. The video-recording device remained on and recorded White tell Agent Brown that he purchased the cocaine from a man named “G” or “Greg.” Subsequently, Agent Brown conducted an investigation, and through various statements and identifications by other witnesses, including fellow officer J.B. Long, he determined that “Greg” was Sanders.
At trial, the prosecution admitted photographs taken from the audio-video recording. The photographs depicted Sanders and the white substance clearly. The prosecution also admitted the audio-video recording into evidence over the defense's contemporaneous hearsay, Confrontation Clause, and unauthenticated-evidence objections. Agent Brown testified that he “remained a block or two over” from the “buy” spot, and he kept “loose surveillance” on the area during the operation. Agent Brown further testified, without an objection, that with help from Officer Long he was able to determine that “Greg” was Sanders.
Sanders testified in his own defense and confirmed that on September 11, 2014, he was at the apartment where the CI purchased the crack cocaine. He further testified that he was visiting Fields, who he knew was a drug dealer, and that she asked him to get a substance off the table and bring it to her. He testified that he did so, but that he was not paying attention to what was in the small plastic bag. Sanders maintained that he gave the substance to Fields, not White, and that Fields gave the substance to the CI. Sanders denied being called “G” and denied receiving any money as part of a transaction.

Sanders v. State, 228 So.3d 888, 889-90 (Miss. Ct. App.), reh'g denied (June 13, 2017), cert. denied, 223 So.3d 787 (Miss. 2017). Particularly relevant to Sanders' claims in the instant petition, the Court notes that White was killed prior to trial, and Sanders never had the opportunity to cross-examine him. See Doc. #9-1 at 36-39.

         On May 28, 2015, Sanders was convicted of sale, transfer, or distribution of crack cocaine in the Circuit Court of Lee County. Doc. #9-1 at 69-70. By judgment filed May 28, 2015, he was sentenced to serve eight years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) as an habitual offender without parole or early release. Id.

         With the assistance of counsel, Sanders appealed the judgment and conviction to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's decision. Sanders v. State, 228 So.3d 888 (Miss. Ct. App. 2017), reh'g denied June 13, 2017. Sanders, proceeding pro se, filed a certiorari petition that was denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court on August 10, 2017. Doc. #8-2.

         On December 13, 2017, Sanders filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief. Doc. #9-7 at 4-11. The Mississippi Supreme Court entered an Order denying the motion on January 10, 2018. Doc. #8-3.

         On September 5, 2018, Sanders signed the instant petition, which was stamped “filed” in this Court on September 24, 2018. In the instant petition, ...

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