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Wiley v. Hurley

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 27, 2017

CROZET A. WILEY, Petitioner.
v.
JAMES HURLEY, [1]Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Petition of Crozet A. Wiley for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Petition is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         I. Procedural History

         Petitioner Crozet A. Wiley is currently incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Center ("NECC") pursuant to the judgment and sentence of the Circuit Court of Pemiscot County, Missouri. (Resp't's Ex. B pp. 40-41) A jury found Petitioner guilty of one count of assault in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action. (Id. at pp. 33-34) The court sentenced him to 15 years' incarceration for first degree assault and 5 years' incarceration for armed criminal action, said sentences to run concurrently. (Id. at p. 40) Petitioner appealed the judgment, and on February 7, 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and conviction. (Resp't's Ex. H) Petitioner then filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Judgment or Sentence pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15. (Resp't's Ex. J pp. 3-15)

         Appointed counsel filed an amended Rule 29.15 motion on October 19, 2011. (Id. at pp. 23-38) On September 24, 2012, the motion court denied Petitioner's motion for post-conviction relief. (Id. at pp. 42-48) On December 3, 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the motion court. (Resp't's Ex. N) On January 15, 2014, Petitioner filed the present petition for habeas relief in federal court.

         II. Factual Background [2]

         On September 6, 2008, Gary Hatley ("Hatley") walked to a friend's house one morning to assist with a sewer problem. Hatley brought a 12-pack of beer and drank five to eight beers within one hour. He had a buzz going when he walked home with his remaining beer. As Hatley approached Petitioner, Crozet A. Wiley, Petitioner yelled at Hatley and asked for a beer. Hatley walked up to Petitioner, gave him a beer, and the two men talked near Plaintiffs front porch. The next thing Hatley recalled was lying out by the street, feeling something wet, and seeing blood on his shirt. Hatley did not recall the stabbing or know why Petitioner stabbed him. Hatley possessed no weapon, and he had no dispute with Petitioner.

         Although Hatley was bleeding heavily from his chest wound, he was able to flag down a passing police car. Hatley was flown to a hospital. Petitioner went to a neighbor's home, stuffed the knife in a sock, and asked his neighbor to keep it for him. The neighbor notified the police, and they recovered the knife with remaining blood. Petitioner was tried as a persistent offender, as he admitted to having three prior felonies, including two for felony assault. Petitioner claimed self-defense and testified that Petitioner had just returned from the liquor store when Hatley approached Petitioner. According to Petitioner, Hatley was drunk and staggering, and he belligerently called Petitioner "n*gger" and hit him in the left cheek. That was when Hatley "got stabbed." State v. Wiley, 377 S.W.3d 41, 43 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011).

         III. Petitioner's Claims

         In his Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner raises three claims for federal habeas relief. Petitioner argues in Ground One that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to offer a modified self-defense instruction. In Ground Two, Petitioner asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the State's argument that Petitioner offered no evidence to support his self-defense claim when the State had successfully excluded Petitioner's proposed evidence. Finally, in Ground Three, Petitioner contends that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the victim made a statement that he was "going to kill that n*gger" because the statement was relevant to who was the initial aggressor and to Petitioner's theory of self-defense.

         IV. Legal Standards

         Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), federal courts review state court decisions under a deferential standard. Owens v. Dormire, 198 F.3d 679, 681 (8th Cir. 1999). "[A] district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus . . . only on the ground that [the petitioner] is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Further, a federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the claim adjudicated on the merits in state court '"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.'" Owens, 198 F.3d at 681 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). Findings of fact made by a state court are presumed to be correct, and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See also Gee v. Groose, 110 F.3d 1346, 1351 (8th Cir. 1997) (state court factual findings presumed to be correct where fairly supported by the record).

         "Under the 'contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-413 (2000). With regard to the "unreasonable application" clause, "a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413; see also Bucklew v. Luebbers 436 F.3d 1010, 1016 (8th Cir. 2006); Roman v. Roper, 436 F.3d 951, 956 (8th Cir. 2006). In other words, "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. Rather that application must also be unreasonable." Williams, 529 U.S. at 411.

         To preserve a claim for federal habeas review, a petitioner must present the claim to the state court and allow that court the opportunity to address petitioner's claim. Moore-El v. Luebbers, 446 F.3d 890, 896 (8th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). "Where a petitioner fails to follow applicable state procedural rules, any claims not properly raised before the state court are procedurally defaulted." Id. A federal court will consider a defaulted habeas claim "only where the petitioner can establish either cause for the default and actual prejudice, or that the default will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice." Id.

         V. Discussion

         A. Ground One

         Petitioner argues in Ground One that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to offer a modified self-defense instruction. According to Petitioner, this instruction would have informed the jury that Petitioner could use deadly force to protect and defend himself against a "forcible felony" ...


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