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Fitzpatrick v. Banks

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

June 7, 2019

FRANKLIN FITZPATRICK PETITIONER
v.
JACAUELYN BANKS, ET AL. RESPONDENTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of Franklin Fitzpatrick for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has responded to the petition, and Mr. Fitzpatrick has replied. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the instant petition will be denied.

         Habeas Corpus Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         The writ of habeas corpus, a challenge to the legal authority under which a person may be detained, is ancient. Duker, The English Origins of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: A Peculiar Path to Fame, 53 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 983 (1978); Glass, Historical Aspects of Habeas Corpus, 9 St. John's L.Rev. 55 (1934). It is “perhaps the most important writ known to the constitutional law of England, ” Secretary of State for Home Affairs v. O'Brien, A.C. 603, 609 (1923), and it is equally significant in the United States. Article I, § 9, of the Constitution ensures that the right of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, except when, in the case of rebellion or invasion, public safety may require it. Habeas Corpus, 20 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Deskbook § 56. Its use by the federal courts was authorized in Section14 of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Habeas corpus principles developed over time in both English and American common law have since been codified:

The statutory provisions on habeas corpus appear as sections 2241 to 2255 of the 1948 Judicial Code. The recodification of that year set out important procedural limitations and additional procedural changes were added in 1966. The scope of the writ, insofar as the statutory language is concerned, remained essentially the same, however, until 1996, when Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, placing severe restrictions on the issuance of the writ for state prisoners and setting out special, new habeas corpus procedures for capital cases. The changes made by the 1996 legislation are the end product of decades of debate about habeas corpus.

Id. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a federal court may issue the writ when a person is held in violation of the federal Constitution or laws, permitting a federal court to order the discharge of any person held by a state in violation of the supreme law of the land. Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 311, 35 S.Ct. 582, 588, 59 L.Ed. 969 (1915).

         Procedural Posture

         Franklin Fitzpatrick is currently in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) and housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville, Mississippi. He was convicted of capital murder in the Tippah County Circuit Court Cause No. TK2011-006. On May 10, 2013, the circuit court sentenced him as a habitual offender[1] to serve a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the custody of the MDOC. See SCR, Vol. 2, p. 214-16.

         He appealed his capital-murder conviction and resulting sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following issues:

Issue One: The State's elements instruction contained an improper statement of the law. Therefore, Fitzpatrick's conviction must be reversed.
Issue Two: The trial court erred when it overruled Fitzpatrick's motion for a new trial. The overwhelming weight of the evidence does not support a conviction for capital murder of a peace officer.

         The supreme court interpreted the State's argument to raise a third issue:

Issue Three: Fitzpatrick is procedurally barred from challenging the elements instruction on appeal because he did not object to it at trial.

         The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Fitzpatrick v. State, 175 So.3d 515 (Miss. 2015), reh'g denied, October 15, 2015.

         On May 6, 2016, Fitzpatrick filed an application for leave to proceed in the trial court in Mississippi Supreme Court Cause No. 2016-M-00662.[2] See SCR, Mississippi Supreme Court Cause No. 2016-M-00662. In his application, Fitzpatrick raised the following claims, pro se, which the court has restated in the interest of brevity and clarity:

Issue One: Fitzpatrick's conviction and sentence were imposed in violation of the constitution because his defective indictment failed to properly notify him of the crime charged.
Issue Two: The trial court violated his due process rights by failing to sua sponte order a competency hearing;
Issue Three: Fitzpatrick suffered ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial counsel's alleged failure to: (a) challenge the allegedly defective indictment; (b) request a competency hearing; (c) conduct a proper investigation; (d) present adequate evidence and witnesses; (e) challenge the admission of statements at trial; and (f) challenge the alleged hearsay testimony of Agent Moore.
Issue Four: Fitzpatrick's right to a speedy trial was violated.

         On July 20, 2016, the Mississippi Supreme Court entered an order denying the application as being without merit. Id.

         Mr. Fitzpatrick filed the instant federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus on August 31, 2016. ECF doc. 1. In his federal petition, he raises the following issues pro se, which the court has summarized for the sake of brevity and clarity:

Ground One: Fitzpatrick's conviction and sentence were imposed in violation of the constitution because his allegedly defective indictment is devoid of any allegation that Fitzpatrick murdered a law enforcement officer.
Ground Two: The State's elements instruction contained an improper statement of the law.
Ground Three: The trial court violated his due process rights by failing to sua sponte order a competency hearing.
Ground Four: Mr. Fitzpatrick received ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial counsel's alleged failure to: (a) challenge the allegedly defective indictment; (b) raise a speedy trial violation; and (c) hold a competency hearing.
Ground Five: Mr. Fitzpatrick was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

         Facts

         On December 2, 2010, Franklin Fitzpatrick and Joani Clifton consumed a designer drug commonly referred to as “bath salts.”[3] SCR, Vol. 5, p. 320-23; Vol. 6, p. 482, 600. Near midnight, Franklin and Clifton went to the home of Matt Thrasher, a friend of Clifton, in Tippah County. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 242-44; Vol. 6, p. 537-38. There, Fitzpatrick consumed more bath salts, along with marijuana and crystal methamphetamine. SCR, Vol. 6, p. 537-38. In the early morning hours of December 3, it became apparent that Fitzpatrick had consumed too much, and he began acting erratically. SCR, Vol. 4, 252-55. He began sweating, hallucinating, and speaking irrationally. Id.; SCR, Vol. 6, p. 537-38. Thrasher brought Fitzpatrick a wet rag to cool him off, but Fitzgerald became aggressive. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 254. Thrasher testified Fitzpatrick was “slinging [him] around like a rag doll, ” but he somehow broke loose and ordered Fitzpatrick and Clifton to leave. Id. at p. 254-55.

         Shortly after driving off with Fitzpatrick, Clifton returned to Thrasher's house, as she was afraid that she could not handle Fitzpatrick by herself. Id. at 256-57; SCR, Vol. 5, p. 325. Thrasher called 911 to report the disturbance and ask for assistance. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 259; Vol. 5, p. 301. Tippah County Sheriff's Deputy Rodney Callahan arrived on the scene around 4:30 a.m. on December 3, 2010. SCR, Vol. 4, p. 259; Vol. 5, p. 325-26, 349.

         When Deputy Callahan got to Thrasher's house, he observed Fitzpatrick pacing in the driveway wearing just a t-shirt and sweating profusely, despite it being a cool December night. SCR, Vol. 5, p. 350-52. Deputy Callahan recalled that Fitzpatrick was “really wet” when he arrived and that the whites of Fitzpatrick's eyes were “really large.” Id. Deputy Callahan testified that Fitzpatrick kept pacing back and forth, licking his lips. Id. Fitzpatrick repeatedly requested that Deputy Callahan pray with him, and he kept saying that he thought the devil was “going to come up and get him.” Id. Unable to discern whether Fitzpatrick was on drugs or suffering from some medical condition, Deputy Callahan called an ambulance. Id. Fitzgerald then approached Deputy Callahan, touching his sleeve of his uniform as he asked Deputy Callahan to pray with him. Id. at 352. Deputy Callahan advised Fitzpatrick not to approach him like that again or he would tase him. Id. Fitzpatrick backed off, and Deputy Callahan spent the next several minutes trying to get Fitzpatrick to calm down. Id. at 352-56; SCR, Vol. 4, p. 264-65. Fitzpatrick, however, began expressing his fear that Deputy Callahan might shoot him, although Deputy Callahan repeatedly told Fitzpatrick that he only wanted to talk to him. Id. at 265, 296-97.

         Within minutes of Deputy Callahan's arrival, Deputy Dewayne Crenshaw also arrived. Id. at p. 264; SCR, Vol. 5, p. 310, 357. The deputies continued to try to calm Fitzpatrick down but concluded it was best for his and their own safety if they restrained Fitzpatrick. SCR, Vol. 5, p. 360-61. As the deputies approached to handcuff him, Fitzpatrick resisted, and a scuffle ensued. Id. at 362-63. During the encounter, Fitzpatrick gained control of Deputy Callahan's service weapon. Id. at 362-65. When he first heard the shots, Deputy Callahan thought Deputy Crenshaw had shot Fitzpatrick, but when he reached for his weapon and it was not there, he realized what had happened. Id. at 365. Fitzpatrick had yanked Deputy Callahan's weapon from his holster during the struggle and had used it to fatally shoot Deputy Crenshaw. Id. at 374-75, 382, 391, 433; SCR, Vol. 6, p. 575.

         Deputy Callahan immediately ran for cover. SCR, Vol. 5, p. 365. From there, he noticed Fitzpatrick no longer had the pistol in his possession, so he decided to try to subdue him. Id. at 381-82. An intense struggle ensued, but Deputy Callahan could not gain the upper hand. Id. at 382. At that point, the ambulance had arrived. Id.

         Deputy Callahan, despite being in a fierce struggle with Fitzpatrick, told the paramedics to first check on Deputy Crenshaw, but it was too late. Id. at 382-83. Deputy Crenshaw was dead. Id. After tending to Deputy Crenshaw, Al Crum, an EMT, joined the struggle to subdue Fitzpatrick. Id. In the end, however, it took ...


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