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Stroud v. Hooks

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

February 26, 2019

ERIK A. HOOKS, Respondents.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner John Arthur Stroud's pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 1) and Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9).[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina, who, on April 16, 2015, was convicted by a Mecklenburg County Superior Court jury of felonious breaking or entering, larceny after breaking or entering, felonious possession of stolen goods, and non-felonious possession of stolen goods. State v. Stroud, 799 S.E.2d 279, 2017 WL 1629379, at *2 ( N.C. Ct. App.) (unpublished table decision), appeal dismissed, review denied, 803 S.E.2d 160 ( N.C. 2017). Stroud pleaded guilty to attaining the status of a habitual felon. Id. The trial court arrested judgment on the felonious possession of stolen goods charge, consolidated the other felony convictions, and sentenced Stroud as a habitual felon to a term of 115 to 120 months in prison. Id. The court sentenced Stroud to a consecutive term of 120 days on the non-felonious possession of stolen goods charge. Id.

         Stroud appealed. The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion on May 2, 2017, finding no prejudicial error had occurred at trial. Stroud, 799 S.E.2d 279, 2017 WL 1629379, at *4. Thereafter, Stroud filed a notice of appeal and a petition for discretionary review in the North Carolina Supreme Court. State v. Stroud, 803 S.E.2d 160 (2017) (Mem). On August 17, 2017, the State Supreme Court entered an Order dismissing the notice of appeal and denying the petition for discretionary review. Id.

         Stroud filed the instant federal habeas Petition on March 7, 2018. (§ 2254 Pet. 21, Doc. No. 1.) Stroud claims he was deprived of his right to meaningful appellate review, the right to the effective assistance of appellate counsel, due process, and equal protection because his trial transcript is deficient and incomplete (Ground One). (§ 2254 Pet. 5.) Stroud also claims the trial court erred in instructing the jury on flight (Ground Two). (§ 2254 Pet. 6-8.) Stroud's remaining grounds for relief (Three and Four) merely repeat the allegations and claims made in Grounds One and Two. (§ 2254 Pet. 8-9. 17.)

         Respondent has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9), and Stroud has filed three letters addressed to Respondent, which the Court construes collectively as a response to the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. Nos. 11-13). The response raises claims that are not included in the § 2254 Petition - ineffective assistance of trial counsel, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and prosecutorial misconduct. (Doc. No. 11.) The Court shall not consider any of these new claims. The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts requires that all grounds for relief be raised in the habeas petition. See Rule 2, 28 U.S.C.A. foll. § 2254. While a petitioner may move to amend his habeas petition to add new claims, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, Stroud has not done so.


         Summary judgment is appropriate in those cases where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and it appears that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); United States v. Lee, 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991). Any permissible inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Where, however, the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), habeas relief may be granted to a state prisoner only if the state court's last adjudication of a claim on the merits “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, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or “resulted in a decision that 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)(2). To obtain relief under § 2254(d)(1), a petitioner “is required to ‘show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).


         A. Incomplete Trial Transcript

         Stroud claims he was denied his right to “effective” appellate review, effective assistance of appellate counsel, due process, and equal protection because his trial transcript is deficient and incomplete. (§ 2254 Pet. 5, 8, 17.) Stroud raised the substance of his due process claim[2] on direct appeal, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals denied it on the merits. Stroud, 799 S.E.2d 279, 2017 WL 1629379, at *2-*3.

         The North Carolina Court of Appeals summarized the evidence in this case as follows:

On 31 May 2013, Joanna Petrie was returning to her family's home in Charlotte when she saw an unfamiliar man exit her garage, get into a white Ford Escape, and drive away. Joanna took note of the car's license plate number and told her mother, Julia Petrie, what she had seen. Joanna and Julia quickly discovered that two sets of golf clubs and two golf bags were missing from the garage. The Petries contacted the police.
The police determined that the vehicle Joanna had seen was registered to Kyana Renee Stele. When the police contacted Stele, she informed them that her mother and her mother's boyfriend, Defendant John Arthur Stroud, were the primary users of the car. Stele further informed the police that Stroud would be picking her mother up from a doctor's appointment later that afternoon.
The police were waiting for Stroud at the doctor's office when he arrived to pick up Stele's mother. Stroud arrived in Stele's white Ford Escape with the license plate matching the one Petrie observed in her driveway. There were golf clubs and bags in the back seat. The police arrested Stroud at the scene.
Later that day, Julia Petrie's husband, Christopher Petrie, identified one set of golf clubs and one golf bag recovered from Stroud as ones stolen from the Petrie's garage. But half of Christopher's clubs were still missing, and he informed the police that the other golf equipment recovered from the car-a green golf bag and another set of clubs-were not his.
The police soon identified a recently opened case where another homeowner had reported that golf clubs and a green golf bag had been stolen from his open garage. The police contacted that victim, who identified the other bag and clubs as those taken from his garage.
Stroud, however, maintained that the golf equipment found in the car belonged to him. He claimed that the owner of a pawn shop where he was formerly employed gave him the equipment as a gift. He also claimed that he was at home, doing floor repairs, when Joanna Petrie witnessed someone leaving her family's garage and that, during the time of the theft, Stroud had loaned Stele's white Ford Escape to a friend.
. . . The State tried Stroud on 13 April 2015.
At the charge conference, the State requested an instruction on flight. Stroud objected. The trial court overruled the objection ...

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