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Coates v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 14, 2016

JOSEPH COATES, Petitioner,
v.
KATHLEEN GREEN, et al, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

Joseph Coates filed a habeas petition, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and denial of a fair trial with regard to the state court proceeding in which he was found guilty of first degree attempted murder, assault, and handgun offenses. Upon review of the substantive response (ECF No. 8), this Court finds a hearing in this case unnecessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)). For the reasons set forth below, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus shall be denied and a Certificate of Appealability declined.

Facts Produced at Trial

Petitioner Joseph Coates ("Coates") was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on December 8-10, 2008, on charges of attempted first degree murder and related handgun offenses for the August 24, 2007 shooting of James Hammond. At trial, the State's eye witness Troy Wilson testified that at approximately 10:20 p.m. on the evening of August 24, 2007, more than a dozen people were standing outside near a street when a black Lincoln Navigator pulled up and stopped. See Dec. 8, 2008 Tr. 144 - 156, Resp. Ex. 3 (in court file). Wilson testified that a man, whom he later identified as Coates, got out of the Navigator and shot at James Hammond three times, striking him twice. See id.

Sergeant Lloyd Wells of the Baltimore City Police testified that he arrived on the scene, conducted an "area canvass, " and discovered shell casings of an unknown caliber that were in good condition. Wells testified that had the casings not been in good condition, e.g., had they been rusty, there would be no reason to believe they were the product of a very recent shooting. See Dec. 8, 2008 Tr. 175-218. A firearms examiner with the Baltimore City Police, Christopher Faber, testified that the shell casings were .45 caliber, had all been fired by the same firearm, and, because they had been ejected to the ground, had been fired by a semiautomatic firearm. Dec. 9, 2008 Tr. 15-23 (testimony of Faber), Resp. Ex. 4 (in court file).

Although police arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting occurred, no one interviewed at that time offered a description of the shooter; rather, they maintained they had not been present when Hammond was shot. See Dec. 8, 2008 Tr. 184-85. Troy Wilson was not interviewed that evening because he left the scene and went into his house, which was nearby. Wilson explained that he went back inside because the shooting had nothing to do with him. See Id. at 149-50, 165.

Wells testified that he went to Johns Hopkins to check on the status of the victim and when he arrived, Hammond was in surgery. He said that he later was able to interview Hammond at the hospital, but when he returned for a second interview, he learned that Hammond had been released from the hospital. Wells did not testify about his interview of Hammond, and Hammond did not testify at trial; thus, no motive for the shooting was ever established. See Id. at 185-86, 190-91.

Wilson testified that, on the morning of August 26, 2007, at approximately 10:00, he and a man he referred to as "Frog" were about to drive to a store to purchase alcohol when the same Lincoln Navigator Wilson he had seen two nights previously pulled up to his car, blocking Wilson from leaving. The passenger in the Navigator then brandished a firearm and shot at Wilson's truck.[1] Wilson identified the driver as the same man who had shot Hammond. Id. at 150-52.

When Wilson initially spoke with police he provided a description of the car, which he maintained was used during both incidents, and a description of the shooter, whom he described as a "[l]ittle chubby fat boy with plats" in his hair and "brown skin." Id. at 152, 166. Wilson described the Navigator as black with "silver skirts" and bearing Maryland agricultural tags. Id. at 151-52. Police were able to locate a black Lincoln Navigator with agricultural tags registered to Coates, who matched the general description of the shooter. See Id. at 187-89. Later, Wilson identified Coates's picture in a photo array on September 24, 2007, writing on the back of the form: "This is the guy I seen get out of the truck doing the shooting that night. And this is the same guy firing the gun ... the same guy driving the same Navigator Sunday morning when he shot my wife's truck up." Id. at 153-54.

Coates's trial counsel called two witnesses to the stand who were also present during the shooting on August 24, 2007. Each gave slightly different accounts of the shooting and both maintained the shooter did not exit the car, but simply shot Hammond through an open car window. Both witnesses admitted they lied to police when they were questioned about being present at the scene of the shooting and neither confirmed that Wilson was present at the time Hammond was shot. Dec. 9, 2008 Tr. 65-101.

Also testifying for the defense was Coates's girlfriend, Tyra Richmond. She testified that Coates's Navigator had recently been released from the city's impound lot and, through her testimony, pictures of the car were introduced into evidence. Richmond testified that the Navigator looked the same way it did at the time of the shooting. The photographed Navigator was black with silver hubcaps and a dark grey running board; Richmond did not mention silver wheel liners, or "skirts, " in her testimony. Id. at 111-16.

Coates's defense counsel attempted to call a witness, Damien Tapp, [2] to testify that he owned a body shop where Coates's Navigator had undergone repairs, including a paint job that changed the color of the truck from green to black. The defense counsel stated that Tapp's testimony was not an alibi defense, but would be limited only to the color of Coates's car to establish that, at the time of the shooting, it was green. Dec. 10, 2008 Tr. 3-12, Resp. Ex. 5 (in court file). The State's Attorney objected to Tapp being allowed to testify, as the State was not notified he would be a witness in a timely manner, as required by Maryland Rule 4-263. The State's objection was sustained and Tapp was not permitted to testify. Id. at 12.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on December 10, 2008 on first degree attempted murder, assault, and handgun offenses. Id. at 66-67. On January 26, 2009, Coates was sentenced to serve a term of incarceration, totaling 40 years. Jan. 26, 2009 Tr., Resp. Ex. 6 (in court file).

Claims Raised in State Court

Coates filed a direct appeal with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland raising ...


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