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Halkmon v. Wallace

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

March 29, 2017

RONALD K. HALKMON, JR., Petitioner,
IAN WALLACE, Respondent,



         Ronald K. Halkmon, Jr., petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] After reviewing the case file, the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the petition is denied.


         The Missouri Court of Appeals recited the facts of this case as follows:

On February 25, 2008, Edmond Mack (Victim) was a roommate of [Petitioner]'s brother, Avedou Halkmon (Avedou), living together in the upstairs apartment of a two-family flat on Lotus. Although [Petitioner] had recently moved into the downstairs apartment, he was being evicted and was moving out while Carlos Vaughn (Vaughn) and his girlfriend LaTonya Holmes (Holmes) were moving in. Vaughn's friend Kerry Green (Green), who drove a burgundy-and-tan pickup truck that he parked nearby, was also present during the move.
During the move, in the downstairs apartment, [Petitioner] and Victim were having an argument about [Petitioner]'s girlfriend, when Avedou heard Victim tell [Petitioner] he was “tripping” and then a shot was fired. Avedou came out of the upstairs apartment to see what was happening. He saw Vaughn and Green standing at the door to the apartment building behind [Petitioner], who was holding Victim by his shirt collar with one hand and holding a .38 revolver in his other hand. Avedou said seven or eight times to [Petitioner], “I know you ain't just shoot L, ”[2] and [Petitioner] never looked at or responded to him. [Petitioner] pulled Victim down the last few steps of the stairwell and out the door of the building. Avedou saw Vaughn and Green go though [sic] Victim's pants pockets, then went back inside his apartment to call 911. As he was calling, he looked through the window of his upstairs apartment and saw [Petitioner], Vaughn and Green run to the burgundy-and-tan pickup truck, get inside, and speed away.
Holmes attempted to perform resuscitation on Victim while Avedou called 911. Avedou then returned to Victim to assist Holmes and Victim told him, “Your brother was tripping, [Avedou].” Before the police arrived Avedou called his sister Marnesa Lewis (Lewis) and told her that their brother, [Petitioner], had shot Victim. Victim died before the ambulance arrived.
Lewis arrived shortly before the police. When police arrived, Avedou told police that all he knew was that someone had been shot and he did not knew who did it.
Avedou, however, told Lewis again that [Petitioner] had shot Victim. Lewis took Avedou back to Lewis's own home. While Avedou was at Lewis's home, [Petitioner] called Avedou's cell phone. Avedou put the call on speakerphone, and [Petitioner] said, “You going around telling people I whacked L, it's like that for you.” Avedou asked, “What?” [Petitioner] said, “It's like that, I know you ain't telling people I whacked L.” Avedou felt threatened by the conversation, so he spent the night in a hotel.
Lewis and Avedou finally went to the police station. Avedou gave the officers a statement detailing everything he had seen [Petitioner], Vaughn and Green do to Victim. On February 29, 2008, police took [Petitioner] into custody.
The State charged [Petitioner] with one count of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree robbery, and two counts of armed criminal action (ACA). On September 28, 2009, [Petitioner] was tried jointly with Vaughn and Green.
[Petitioner] testified in his own defense at trial. [Petitioner] stated that he, Victim, and Avedou had been selling drugs from the apartment building, and Avedou was upset and jealous of the arrangement [Petitioner] had with Victim regarding sharing the profits. [Petitioner] stated on the day of the murder Avedou was the one being evicted and was angry about it. [Petitioner] testified Avedou shot Victim during an argument over drug customers. [Petitioner] testified he was outside when he heard a gunshot, pushed the apartment door open, and saw Victim on the stairwell, crumpled over, and Avedou at the top of the steps. [Petitioner] said he tried to assist Victim out onto the porch but then left to go to his mother's and Cyntoria's house because he had drugs on his person and thought police were on their way.
After trial, the jury found [Petitioner] guilty as charged and the trial court entered judgment thereon, sentencing him as a prior offender to life imprisonment without parole for the murder, and concurrent thirty-year terms on the robbery and ACA counts.

Resp't Ex. I at 2-4 (Mem. Supplementing Order Affirming J. Pursuant to Rule 84.16(b)).

         Petitioner raised four points on direct appeal: (1) that the trial court erred in denying his judgment for acquittal on the first-degree murder charge because the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of guilt; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his judgment for acquittal on the first-degree robbery charge because the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of guilt, particularly the element of the existence of any taken property; (3) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; and (4) that the trial court erred in overruling his objection and allowing the jury to hear hearsay evidence offered by Marnesa and Cyntoria Lewis regarding statements made to each by Avedou in that the testimony served to bolster Avedou's testimony and was not properly offered to rehabilitate a witness whose credibility was in question. Resp't Ex. E at 6-7 (Mem. Supplementing Order Affirming J. Pursuant to Rule 30.25(b)). The Missouri Court of Appeals found the arguments to be meritless and affirmed the judgment. Id. at 7-13.

         Movant filed a timely postconviction motion under Missouri Rule 29.15. Resp't F at 4-25 (Rule 29.15 Legal File). Appointed counsel filed an amended motion, which superseded the pro se motion. Id. at 29-41; see Norville v. State, 83 S.W.3d 112, 114 (Mo.Ct.App. 2002). The motion court denied relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. Resp't Ex. F at 42-49.

         On appeal, Petitioner argued that (1) trial counsel was ineffective in constructively and effectively waiving his right to remain silent by telling the jury during voir dire that he would testify and had prior convictions; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present the rebuttal testimony of Demetrius Ingram that Avedou told Ingram that he talked to the police regarding Petitioner's involvement in the crimes; and (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct by telling the jury in opening statement that they would hear Shante Jennings's testimony about what she witnessed at the crime scene, when the prosecutor knew he had lost contact with her, and therefore intentionally misrepresented the State's ability to produce Jennings as a witness. Resp't Ex. I at 6-10. The appellate court denied points one and two on the merits, and it found that point three was not cognizable in Rule 29.15 proceedings. Id. at 6-11.

         Petitioner filed the instant petition on about December 5, 2013. On April 16, 2014, Petitioner moved for leave to add four new claims to the petition. The Court denied the motion on March 13, 2015, because the proposed amendments were futile.

         Grounds for Relief

         In his petition, Petitioner raises the following grounds for relief:

(1) Trial counsel was ineffective for:
1) failing to investigate witnesses Marnesa Lewis and Demetrius Ingram;
2) disclosing privileged work product to the State;
3) constructively waiving his right to remain silent;
4) failing to object to prosecutorial misconduct;
5) failing to object to uncharged conduct;
6) failing to properly subpoena Shante Jennings.
(2) The prosecutor committed misconduct by failing to produce Shante Williams at trial and by introducing statements of uncharged conduct through a witness.
(3) The trial court erred in not severing his case from his co-defendants.
(4) The trial court erred in allowing hearsay evidence.
(5) “Newly discovered evidence, ” which was contained in his trial legal file, demonstrates his actual innocence.
(6) Postconviction counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise his prosecutorial misconduct claim on direct appeal.
(7) The evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for first-degree murder because the elements of deliberation or premeditation were not proved, and there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction for first-degree robbery because it was never proved that he took any property from the victim.

         Procedural Default

         To avoid defaulting on a claim, a Petitioner seeking habeas review must have fairly presented the substance of the claim to the state courts, thereby affording the state courts a fair opportunity to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing on the claim. Wemark v. Iowa, 322 F.3d 1018, 1020-21 (8th Cir. 2003) (quotation marks omitted). A claim has been fairly presented when a Petitioner has properly raised the same factual grounds and legal theories in the state courts that he is attempting to raise in his federal petition. Id. at 1021. Claims that have not been fairly presented to the state courts are procedurally defaulted. Id. at 1022 (quoting Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 161-62 (1996)). Claims that have been procedurally defaulted may not give rise to federal habeas relief unless the Petitioner can demonstrate cause and prejudice for the default. Id. “[T]he existence of cause for a procedural default must ordinarily turn on whether the prisoner can show that some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule.” Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986).

         Merits Standard

         In the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by the AEDPA to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). Under this standard, a federal court may not grant relief to a state prisoner unless the state court's adjudication of a claim “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 “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).

         A state court decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent if “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the] Court on a question of law or . . . decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law if it “correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case.” Id. at 407-08. Finally, a state court decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record. 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(1); Ryan v. Clarke, 387 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2004).


         I. Ground 1

         In ground one, Petitioner raises several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Federal habeas review of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim is “doubly deferential.” Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111 (2009). First, a petitioner must overcome the high bar of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), by showing that (1) counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) petitioner was sufficiently prejudiced such that “the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 688, 694. Second, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the petitioner must show that the state court's adjudication of his ineffective assistance claim was “unreasonable.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011). Both the Strickland standard and the ...

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