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Coley v. Hooks

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 29, 2018

ERIK A. HOOKS, Respondent.[1]


          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge

         Petitioner, a state inmate, petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the court on respondent's motion for summary judgment (DE 22) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants respondent's motion for summary judgment.


         On August 2, 2006, petitioner was convicted, following a jury trial in the Edgecombe County Superior Court, of first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. See State v. Coley, 193 N.C.App. 458, 461 (2008). Petitioner subsequently filed a notice of appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. See id. The court of appeals entered an order finding no error on November 4, 2008.[2] Id. at 468. On February 5, 2009, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied petitioner's petition for discretionary review. State v. Coley, 363 N.C. 132 (2009). Petitioner subsequently filed an appeal of the court of appeal's decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-30(2). State v. Coley, 363 N.C. 622 (2009). The North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's decision on October 9, 2009. Id.

         On July 9, 2010, petitioner submitted several pro se filings to the Edgecombe County Superior Court, which the court construed as a motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”). (Resp't's App. (DE 26) Exs. 12-13). The superior court summarily denied petitioner's MAR on July 21, 2010. (Id. Ex. 13). On September 2, 2010, petitioner filed a second pro se MAR, which was summarily denied on October 21, 2010. (Id. Exs. 14, 15). On March 14, 2013, petitioner filed a third pro se MAR, which was summarily denied. (Resp't's App. (DE 27) Exs. 16, 17).

         On December 16, 2016, petitioner filed the instant pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and alleged the following: (1) his medical records were never brought up in court during his three-day trial regarding his health illnesses; (2) he was tried with just one lawyer; (3) he was tried for first-degree murder facing the death penalty without the benefit of a plea offer; (4) his state trial counsel never brought in any witnesses petitioner gave him but let the district attorney bring in two witnesses who lied about petitioner; (5) his state trial counsel did not call any of petitioner's family members or other person's from petitioner's past; (6) he has written many letters over the years to various persons seeking help to overturn his conviction but all doors have been closed to him; (7) he sent papers in every time he was asked but his letters were sent back to him stating that a copy of his letters would be put in his files; and (8) he sent paper work a fourth time but he has not received a response.

         On June 8, 2017, respondent filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief. Petitioner filed eleven pleadings and other miscellaneous documents in response, including over 400 pages of handwritten documents.


         The facts as stated by the North Carolina Court of Appeals are summarized as follows:

On 7 March 2005, Roger Earl Coley (“defendant”) called 911 from his house at 410 Myrtle Avenue in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and reported that he had stabbed his wife, Deborah Thompson Coley, with a butcher knife. When the operator inquired as to how many times he had stabbed his wife, defendant responded that he had stabbed her “about twenty times.” Officer Brian Patrick Livecchi of the Rocky Mount Police Department arrived at defendant's house a short time later. At the time Officer Livecchi arrived, defendant was standing on the porch with blood on his clothes. Officer Livecchi then handcuffed defendant and asked him what happened. Defendant responded, “I stabbed her.” After handcuffing defendant, Officer Livecchi entered the residence and found Mrs. Coley leaning against a sofa. She was bleeding from her chest. Officer Livecchi took her pulse, and after determining the scene was secure, called the dispatcher to alert the firemen and paramedics.
After other police officers arrived, Officer Livecchi placed defendant in the back of his police car and drove him to the Rocky Mount Police Department. On the way to the police department, defendant made several statements. Defendant stated that “he just simply couldn't take it anymore” and that “she never gave him any respect.” At the police station, defendant was informed of his Miranda rights by Detective Thomas Seighman. Defendant responded that he wanted to speak to an attorney. Despite defendant's invocation of his right to silence, defendant continued to make statements. Defendant was then allowed to make several phone calls, which were recorded by a video camera set up inside the police station. During one of these phone calls, defendant described the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Coley's stabbing.
Kevin Bissette, a member of West Edgecombe Rescue Squad, arrived shortly after Officer Livecchi. Mr. Bissette examined Mrs. Coley and determined that she had no pulse. Mrs. Coley was then transported to the hospital as emergency personnel attempted to resuscitate her. These efforts proved unsuccessful, and Mrs. Coley died while being transported to the hospital.
A grand jury indicted defendant for first-degree murder on 23 May 2005. On 26 April 2006, a competency hearing was held before Judge Frank R. Brown in Edgecombe County Superior Court. After hearing the evidence, Judge Brown concluded defendant possessed sufficient capacity to proceed to trial. Defendant was tried before a jury for the murder of his wife, Deborah Coley, on 31 July 2006, in Edgecombe County Superior Court, Judge W. Russell Duke, Jr., presiding. On 2 August 2006, defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Coley, 193 N.C.App. at 460-61.


         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(a); 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. Indus. 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 ...

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