United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.
Petitioner petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The matter came before the court on respondent's motion for summary judgment (DE 10) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, to which petitioner responded. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants respondent's motion.
STATEMENT OF CASE
On November 18, 2009, petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Craven County Superior Court of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. See State v. Hayes, No. COA10-656, 2011 WL 1238302, at *1 ( N.C. Ct. App., Apr. 5, 2011). On April 5, 2011, the North Carolina Court of Appeals found no error in the conviction. Id. at *5. On August 25, 2011, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied discretionary review. States v. Hayes , 717 S.E.2d 393, 393 ( N.C. 2011). On December 13, 2011, petitioner filed a pro se motion for appropriate relief ("MAR") in the Craven County Superior Court. Pet. Attach. On December 11, 2012, the superior court denied petitioner's MAR. Id . On February 28, 2013, petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of certiorari in the court of appeals, which was denied on March 18, 2013. Id.
On May 17, 2013, petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his petition, petitioner alleges the following: (1) he did not have a fair and impartial jury in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution; and (3) his rights pursuant to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution were violated when the prosecution was permitted to present evidence of the victim's violent criminal history. Petitioner also alleges that the trial court prejudiced his right to a fair trial when it failed to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter. Respondent subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which was fully briefed.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The facts as stated by the North Carolina Court of Appeals are summarized as follows:
The evidence at trial tended to show that Defendant and Odell Foster, Jr. (Mr. Foster) had a history of conflict, including two fistfights at nearby dance clubs in September and November 2007. During the evening of 25 April 2008, Defendant and Mr. Foster had engaged in hostile conversation at one of the dance clubs. Mr. Foster left the dance club and drove to the nearby Bayside Restaurant ("Bayside"). In the early morning hours of 26 April 2008, Defendant followed Mr. Foster to Bayside in a vehicle driven by Moises Rodriguez (Mr. Rodriguez). Defendant and Mr. Rodriguez arrived at Bayside. Mr. Rodriguez stopped the vehicle in the parking lot approximately ten feet from where Mr. Foster was standing by the entrance to Bayside. Defendant testified that, when the vehicle stopped in front of Mr. Foster, he saw Mr. Foster pull up his shirt and reach for a gun in his waistband. Defendant was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. He picked up a shotgun that was leaning against the vehicle console, leaned over Mr. Rodriguez, and fired three shots through Mr. Rodriguez's side window, directly at Mr. Foster. Defendant claimed he had reason to believe his life was in danger, and asserted a claim of self-defense.
A grand jury indicted Defendant for first-degree murder on 23 June 2008. Defendant filed written notice on 3 August 2009 of the following potential defenses to first-degree murder: (1) voluntary intoxication with respect to diminished capacity and (2) self-defense. The State filed a motion in limine on 21 August 2009 seeking to prevent Defendant from making references to Mr. Foster's character without a prior ruling from the trial court. In support of his claim of self-defense, Defendant filed a notice of intent to offer evidence of Mr. Foster's prior conviction of voluntary manslaughter on 9 November 2009. The State objected and the trial court held a hearing. The trial court ruled that evidence of Mr. Foster's prior conviction for voluntary manslaughter would be excluded.
The trial court held a jury charge conference to review the proposed jury instructions on 12 November 2009. The proposed instructions permitted the jury to find Defendant: (a) guilty of first-degree murder, (b) guilty of second-degree murder, or (c) not guilty. Defendant requested an additional instruction on voluntary manslaughter, and the trial court heard lengthy arguments by Defendant about the proposed jury instructions and Defendant's request to include voluntary manslaughter. The trial court denied Defendant's motion for an instruction on voluntary manslaughter on 12 November 2009.
The verdict form was submitted to the jury on the afternoon of 12 November 2009. The jury deliberated throughout that afternoon and all of the following day, 13 November 2009. The trial court then recessed to allow one juror to attend an out-of-town funeral. The jury resumed deliberations on 18 November 2009, at which time Defendant renewed his objection to the jury instructions and filed a second motion for additional jury instructions. Defendant requested that the original verdict sheet be withdrawn and that the trial court, after instructing the jury on imperfect self-defense, "submit to [the] jury the issue of voluntary manslaughter[.]" The trial court denied Defendant's motion. The jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder on 18 November 2009.
Hayes, 2011 WL 1238302, at *1-2.
A. Summary Judgment
1. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250.
The standard of review for habeas petitions brought by state inmates, where the claims have been adjudicated on the merits in the state court, is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). That statute states that habeas relief cannot be granted in cases where a state court considered a claim on its merits unless the decision was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court, or the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) and (2). A state court decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court precedent if it either arrives at "a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law" or "confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite" to that of the Supreme Court. Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000). A state court decision "involves an unreasonable application" of Supreme Court law "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the state prisoner's case." Id. at 407. A state court decision also may apply Supreme Court law unreasonably if it extends existing Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it does not apply, or unreasonably refuses to extend existing precedent to a new context where it should apply. Id . The applicable statute
does not require that a state court cite to federal law in order for a federal court to determine whether the state court's decision is an objectively reasonable one, nor does it require a federal habeas court to offer an independent opinion as to whether it believes, based upon its own reading of the controlling Supreme Court precedents, that the [petitioner's] constitutional rights were violated during the state court proceedings.
Bell v. Jarvis , 236 F.3d 149, 160 (4th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 830 (2001). Moreover, a determination of a factual issue made by a state court is presumed correct, unless rebutted by clear ...