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Brown v. Errington

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

August 12, 2019

MAURICE BROWN PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN JOE ERRINGTON RESPONDENT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          F. Keith Ball United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY

         Maurice Brown, a Mississippi state prisoner, filed this action seeking federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The undersigned recommends that Brown's petition be denied.

         Mattie Moore, a neighborhood “candy lady, ” sold candy, chips, and drinks out of her home in Jackson, Mississippi. On the morning of July 30, 2015, two men entered Moore's home for the purpose of robbing her. Ms. Moore, who was 80 years old and legally blind, called out to her granddaughter, Cheramie Moore, who lived with her. Cheramie, a nurse, had worked a night shift and was asleep. When Cheramie heard her grandmother's shouts and got out of bed, she was met at the door of her bedroom by one of the men, whom she later identified as Maurice Brown. Brown, who was wielding a shotgun, demanded money. Cheramie retrieved approximately $100 from a drawer and gave it to him. The men also then took from Mattie Moore a cigar box that she used to make change. Brown was tried and convicted in the Circuit Court of Hinds County of armed robbery and sentenced to 27 years imprisonment.

         Brown appealed, raising as his sole issue the sufficiency of the evidence. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. Brown v. State, 235 So.3d 1399 (Miss. 2017). Brown subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, raising a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to seek dismissal based upon denial of Brown's right to a speedy trial. The supreme court denied relief by order dated October 23, 2018. [8-7] at 2.

         Brown then filed for relief in this court, alleging the following ground for relief, as stated by him in the petition:

That [Brown's] conviction and sentence was obtained in violation of the United States Constitutional Rights to Due Process of Law, Speedy Trial, and Effective Assistance of Counsel during trial and the direct appeal.

[1] at 3.

         II. ANALYSIS

         To the extent that Brown is attempting to assert a free-standing claim for violation of his right to a speedy trial or a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, those claims have been defaulted. Brown has never presented those claims to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and he would now be barred from doing so. Thus any such claims are now procedurally barred pursuant to Sones v. Hargett, 61 F.3d 410, 416 (5th Cir. 1995).

         Brown's claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel was adjudicated on the merits by the state court. Therefore, this court's review is subject to the highly deferential standard set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which allows habeas relief in this case only if the state court's rejection of the claim involved “an unreasonable application of . . . clearly established Federal law . . . as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or “an unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented to the state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that “an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000)). “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 411. Rather, the application must be not only incorrect but also “objectively unreasonable.” Id. at 409. Under this deferential standard, federal relief is precluded “so long as 'fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)).

         Analysis of ineffective assistance claims begins with the well-known test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), which requires that a petitioner show that his counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficiency resulted in prejudice to the defense. But when' 2254(d) applies, the ultimate question is not whether counsel was ineffective under Strickland. Rather, the reviewing court must ask “whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's deferential standard.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 105.

         Brown complains that his right to a speedy trial was violated and that his attorney's failure to inform him of his right to a speedy trial and to seek dismissal on this basis constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. An analysis of Brown's ineffective assistance claim requires a consideration of whether either of these rights was violated in his case. The relevant chronology of events is as follows:

July 30, 2015

Date of the offense.

August 14, 2015

Brown was taken into custody in Abilene, Texas. [8-3] at 8.

January 21, 2016

Indictment. [8-1] at 5.

February 16, 2016

Arraignment. Bond set and counsel appointed. Trial set for June 6, 2016. [8-1] at 6, 7.

February 19, 2016

Defense counsel filed a demand for a speedy trial. [8-1] at 8.

April 25, 2016

Agreed order continuing trial to August 8, 2016.


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