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Robinson v. Vaughan

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 1, 2015

JAMES VAUGHAN, Respondent.


CATHERINE C. EAGLES, District Judge.

Petitioner Dwight Robinson, a prisoner of the State of North Carolina, contends that his murder, assault, and robbery convictions were obtained in violation of his rights and seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 2.) The respondent has filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 7.)[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the respondent's motion and deny Mr. Robinson's petition.


The State's evidence at trial tended to show that Mr. Robinson and an accomplice robbed a restaurant in High Point, North Carolina, in March 1986. See State v. Robinson, 330 N.C. 1, 7-8, 409 S.E.2d 288, 291-92 (1991) (hereinafter Robinson I ). During the robbery, Mr. Robinson shot three employees, one of whom died. See id.


In September 1987, a state-court jury convicted Mr. Robinson of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, (Doc. 8-3 at 91-94), and then sentenced him to death. (Doc. 8-5 at 18.) The North Carolina Supreme Court vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new capital sentencing proceeding. See Robinson I, 330 N.C. at 35-36, 409 S.E.2d at 308. After a resentencing hearing in June 1992, a jury again sentenced Mr. Robinson to death. (Doc. 8-19 at 28-34.)

Days later, Mr. Robinson filed a motion for appropriate relief ("MAR") in state court, (Doc. 8-15), which the court denied on July 30. (Doc. 8-17.) In late 1993, Mr. Robinson appealed his death sentence to the North Carolina Supreme Court, ( see Docs. 9-1 to 9-3), which the court upheld in May 1994. See State v. Robinson, 336 N.C. 78, 443 S.E.2d 306 (1994), superseded on other grounds by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-2002 (hereinafter Robinson II ). The United States Supreme Court later denied certiorari review. See Robinson v. North Carolina, 513 U.S. 1089 (1995); (Doc. 9-8.)

In September 1995, Mr. Robinson filed a second MAR. (Docs. 9-9 to 9-15.) The parties filed pleadings, ( see Docs. 9-16, 9-18, 9-19), but for reasons unclear from the record, the state court never issued a final ruling on the second MAR. In January 2002, Mr. Robinson filed a third MAR in state court asking the court to impose a life sentence on the grounds of mental retardation pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-2005. ( See Doc. 10-4.) After an evidentiary hearing, the court granted the motion, vacated his death sentence, and imposed a life sentence. ( See Doc. 10-5.)

In February 2013, Mr. Robinson filed a pro se MAR in state court. (Docs. 10-7, 10-8.) In an August 2013 order, Superior Court Judge John Craig denied this MAR. (Doc. 10-9.) In January 2014, Mr. Robinson filed a petition for certiorari in the state appellate court, (Doc. 10-10), which the court later denied. (Doc. 10-12.)

On July 30, 2014, Mr. Robinson filed the pending petition for habeas corpus. (Doc. 2.) The respondent has moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 7.)


In his petition, Mr. Robinson raises four claims: (1) actual innocence based on a newly discovered affidavit of his co-defendant; (2) failure to sequester the jury and improper third-party contact with the jury; (3) a Batson violation during jury selection and incomplete Batson analysis by the North Carolina Supreme Court; and (4) ineffective assistance of trial, appellate, and post-conviction counsel. ( See Doc. 2 at 5-10.)


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986). Ordinarily at summary judgment, the Court views the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See id. at 255; see also Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994). Generally speaking, summary judgment applies to habeas proceedings. See Brandt v. Gooding, 636 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2011); Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings in the United States District Courts, Rule 12.

Federal habeas courts face additional constraints when a state court has adjudicated a petitioner's claim on the merits. See Brandt, 636 F.3d at 132. In these circumstances, the Court must also consider the petition under the requirements in 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See id. If the state court adjudicated a petitioner's claims on the merits, this Court may not grant habeas relief unless the adjudication of that claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the ...

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