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McKenzie v. Morgan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 27, 2015

DWANE TAVONE McKENZIE, #353-309 Petitioner
v.
JOHN PHILLIP MORGAN, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Self-represented Petitioner Dwayne Tavone McKenzie[1] filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondents, by their counsel, filed a Response seeking dismissal of the Petition, arguing that two of the four claims presented were unexhausted. (ECF 6). McKenzie was granted an opportunity to reply. (ECF 7). McKenzie then filed a Motion to Amend the Petition by withdrawing the unexhausted claims. (ECF 8).[2] This Court granted Petitioner's Motion to Amend and ordered Respondents to answer the Petition as amended. (ECF 9). After the Response was filed, McKenzie was granted an opportunity to reply. (ECF 10, 11). McKenzie subsequently was granted additional time to reply. (ECF 13). No Reply was filed.

The matter is ripe for disposition. After considering the pleadings, exhibits, and applicable law, this Court finds a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014); Rule 8, "Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings in the United States District Courts."

BACKGROUND

On May 28, 2008, a jury sitting in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County convicted McKenzie of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, and related weapons offenses. (ECF 6-1, 6-2).[3] McKenzie was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment. Id.

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed McKenzie's convictions in an unreported opinion filed on February 21, 2012. (ECF 6-4). McKenzie filed a pro se Petition for a Writ of Certiorari which was denied by the Court of Appeals of Maryland on June 25, 2012. McKenzie has not filed state post conviction proceedings.[4]

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland summarized the facts adduced at trial as follows:

At trial, the State called Nicole Findley, who testified that, at approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 17, 2007, she went to a "strip club" known as "Exclusives." There, she encountered appellant, with whom she was familiar from meeting on a few earlier occasions, and his friend, Jerry Walker. While appellant, Walker and Findley "[w]ere... hanging out" in the club's lobby, Jiovan Purviance, a friend of Findley's brother, entered the club. While in the club's lobby, an argument ensued between appellant and Purviance. Appellant then left the club and, shortly thereafter, Purviance left as well. Later, Purviance returned to the club and joined Findley.
At approximately 4:00 a.m., Findley left the club with Purviance. While walking towards her car, she heard gunshots. She entered her car and began to "pull off' when Purviance "limp[ed] across the street" and entered the passenger side of her vehicle. Findley then testified she saw appellant fire a gun into the car, striking her once in the hand and Purviance several times. She drove to Northwest Hospital, where she received treatment for her wound and met with police detectives. Reviewing a photo array, Findley selected a photo of appellant and identified him as "the shooter."

(ECF 6-4, pp. 2-3).[5]

PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

McKenzie seeks vacatur of his conviction and sentence. He presents two claims of trial court error. The first claim is the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. The second claim is the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on imperfect self-defense and attempted manslaughter. (ECF 1).

ANALYSIS

Section 2254 states that a district court "shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

The statutory framework of the federal habeas statute sets forth a "highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings." Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997); see also Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). The standard is "difficult to meet, " and requires courts to give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt. Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)("If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.").

A federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the state's adjudication on the merits: (1) "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, " or (2) "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).

A state adjudication is contrary to clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) where the state court "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 [the Supreme Court]." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). Under the "unreasonable application" analysis pursuant to 2254(d)(1), a "state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). "[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because [it] concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 411). "Rather, that application must be objectively unreasonable." Id. Thus, "an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law." Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 410).

Further, under § 2254(d)(2), "a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance." Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). "[E]ven if reasonable minds reviewing the record might disagree about the finding in question, " a federal habeas court may not conclude that the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

The habeas statute provides that "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct, " and the petitioner bears "the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). "Where the state court conducted an evidentiary hearing and explained its reasoning with some care, it should be particularly difficult to establish clear and convincing evidence of error on the state court's part." Sharpe v. Bell, 593 F.3d 372, 378 (4th Cir. 2010). This is especially true where state courts have "resolved issues like witness credibility, which are factual determinations' for purposes of Section 2254(e)(1)." Id. at 379 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).

A. CLAIM THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS

McKenzie filed a pre-trial motion to suppress all of his admissions, statements or confessions that he made on November 19, 2000, following his arrest and transport to Baltimore County Police headquarters. (ECF 6-4, p.3; see also Exhibit 7, p. 99).[6] McKenzie gave a verbal statement, a written statement, and also provided a 45 minute videotaped statement. Id. at 109-110.

At the suppression hearing held on May 21, 2008, Detective Trenary was called by the State to testify. (ECF 7). Trenary testified that on November 19, 2007, McKenzie was advised of his rights orally and in writing and signed a Miranda form. Id. at 101-104. Trenary testified that McKenzie never requested an attorney and indicated he was willing to waive his rights and speak to detectives. Id. at 105-106, 122. Trenary testified that had McKenzie requested counsel, "the interview would have been over." Id. at 105, 122.

McKenzie took the stand and testified that he told the detectives that he was at the club, but knew nothing about the shooting. Id. at 128. He testified that he signed a Miranda [7] rights form. Id. at 128-129. McKenzie testified that after he signed the form, Trenary continued questioning him. Id. at 131. McKenzie said that he understood that he could ask for a lawyer, but that he believed he would have to pay for one himself. Id. at 130. McKenzie said that the detectives then began questioning him about the case, but that after a few questions, he "basically told [Detective Trenaryl that [he] wanted a lawyer[.]". Id. at 131). McKenzie was "[a]bsolutely" positive that when he asked for a lawyer, only Trenary was in the room with him, and that the detective responded by saying that McKenzie was not charged with anything, so "it wouldn't be no need for a lawyer." Id. at 131.

McKenzie testified that after he gave his oral and written statement, he asked Detective Anderson for an attorney. Id. at 132-133. On cross-examination, McKenzie testified that, while being ...


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