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Reed v. Hooks

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

June 5, 2017

ERIK A. HOOKS, Respondent.


          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner Michael Eugene Reed's pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.)


         Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who was tried capitally before a Catawba County Superior Court jury in March 1999. The North Carolina Court of Appeals summarized the evidence presented by the State:

On 20 June 1997, Norah Pope ("Pope") called the Catawba County Sheriffs Department to report a domestic dispute with defendant, her boyfriend. Two deputies responded to Pope's home, and on their advice, Pope swore out four misdemeanor arrest warrants on defendant, including for assault on a female and communicating a threat. The Sheriffs Department last had contact with Pope at about 10 p.m. Lorri Penly, a friend and co-worker of Pope, testified that she spoke with Pope on the phone at 10 p.m. and offered to come to her home. Pope declined, telling Penly that a friend was staying with her.
A few hours later, at 2:48 a.m., sheriffs deputies arrested defendant at his home pursuant to the warrants. At that time, one of the officers tried to contact Pope to notify her that defendant was in custody, but Pope's phone line was busy. Later that morning, Griff Holston, the husband of Suzie Holston ("Holston"), another friend and co-worker of Pope, drove past their workplace, but did not see his wife's car. Mr. Holston then drove by Pope's home and saw the car in the driveway, but got no answer when he rang the doorbell. Neither woman appeared at work as scheduled.
Shortly thereafter, deputies from the sheriffs department entered the home, and discovered the bodies of Norah Pope and Suzie Holston. Dr. James Parker, a pathologist who performed the autopsies on both women, testified that they were killed in their sleep by gunshots to the head. The officers saw no signs of forced entry to Pope's home, but discovered that the telephone line had been cut. When sheriffs department Captain Coy Reid ("Capt. Reid") discovered that defendant was in custody, he brought defendant to an interrogation room and informed him of his Miranda rights. Defendant waived his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during the interrogation. The interrogation lasted approximately one hour and nineteen minutes. Defendant told Capt. Reid that "he had been in a bad car wreck and it caused damage to his brain." Defendant also said that he should be punished for what he had done, but that it was not first degree murder. Defendant also said that when his father arrived, he would tell Reid everything. Defendant consented to a search of his home and car, and the interview ended.
Later that afternoon, Capt. Reid and a sheriffs department detective interviewed defendant a second time. Defendant waived his rights again and repeated that he would tell everything once his father arrived. Defendant also made several inculpatory statements, although he did not confess to the murders. This second interview lasted approximately fifty minutes.
Tommy Boyette testified for the State that defendant spoke to him while both were in jail awaiting trial. According to Boyette defendant told him how he cut Pope's phone line, entered the home, hid in a closet until Pope and Holston came home, and then shot the two women. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress his statements to Reid and to Boyette. At a hearing on the motions, the interviewing officers and Boyette testifed, as did Dr. Richard Lanham, a clinical neuropsychologist. Dr. Lanham testified concerning defendant's alleged brain injury, establishing that defendant suffered a severe brain injury as a result of a high speed car crash in December 1996. Dr. Lanham further testified that the effects of that injury could have persisted until the time of the murders, and could have affected defendant's ability to knowingly waive his rights and the voluntariness of his statements. The court made findings of fact and concluded that defendant's constitutional rights had not been violated and that his statements to officers and to Boyette had been made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. The court then denied the motion to suppress.

State v. Reed. 590 S.E.2d 477, 2004 WL 77759, at *l-*2 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2004) (unpublished) (Reed III).

         The jury found Petitioner guilty of one count of first-degree murder by lying in wait and one count of first-degree murder on the basis of malice, premeditation and deliberation. After a capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended life imprisonment on both counts. The trial court sentenced defendant to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole. State v. Reed. 558 S.E.2d 167, 169 ( N.C. 2002) ("ReedJI").

         Petitioner appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and on April 17, 2001, a unanimous panel of that court concluded the trial court's failure to allow a defense challenge for cause to a prospective juror was prejudicial error and ordered a new trial. State v. Reed, 545 S.E.2d 249 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2001) ("Reedl"). The North Carolina Supreme Court granted the State's petition for discretionary review ("PDR") and, on February 1, 2002, reversed the Court of Appeals' decision. ReedJI, 558 S.E.2d at 174.

         The matter subsequently was remanded for the Court of Appeals to rule on the issues raised in Petitioner's appeal that it had not addressed in its 2001 decision. See Reed III, 590 S.E.2d. at *1. The court issued an opinion on January 20, 2004, finding no error. Id. at * 7. Petitioner sought review in the North Carolina Supreme Court, which was denied on April 1, 2004. State v. Reed, No. 232P01-2, 596 S.E.2d 16 ( N.C. 2004) (Mem) ("Reed IV").

         On December 7, 2016, Petitioner filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief ("MAR") in the Catawba County Superior Court. (Habeas Pet. 3, Doc. No. 1.) It was denied on December 19, 2016. (Pet. 3.) On February 10, 2017, the North Carolina Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari seeking review of the trial court's order denying his MAR. (Pet. 3-4.) Petitioner next filed a PDR in ...

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