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Morrison v. Graham

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 21, 2016

VICTOR JAN MORRISON, #358-798, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD GRAHAM, JR., et al, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge

         Petitioner Victor Jan Morrison, a prisoner housed at the Western Correctional Institution, filed a motion seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on September 30, 2015. Pet., ECF NO.1. Morrison claims that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to communicate the Sate's plea offers and ensure that he understood them. Id. at 9-10; Pet'r's Resp. 2, 4, ECF NO.8. After reviewing the parties' submissions, I find no need for an evidentiary hearing. See Loc. R. 105(6); 28 U.S.C. S 2254(e)(2). For the reasons set forth herein, the petition shall be dismissed and a certificate of appealability shall not be issued.

         Procedural and Factual History

         On July 19, 2009, Morrison turned himself in to the authorities for a robbery that occurred at a Wachovia Bank in Ellicott City, Maryland the previous day. Md. Ct. Spec. App. Op. 1-2, ECF No. 5-2. Morrison was subsequently charged in the Circuit Court for Howard County with robbery, second-degree assault, and theft. Cir. Ct. Howard Cnty., Md. Docket 3, ECF No. 51.[1] Following a court order for a competency evaluation, Morrison was found competent and ultimately criminally responsible. Id. at 5-6; Competency Hr'g Tr. 4:21-5:5, ECF No. 7-1. A jury convicted Morrison of robbery and theft of over $500. Cir. Ct. Howard Cnty. Docket 2-3. Morrison was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. Answer 4, ECF No. 7.

         Morrison appealed, and on March 28, 2011, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction. Md. Ct. Spec. App. Op. 6. Morrison did not seek further review in the Maryland Court of Appeals, and, thus, his judgment became final on April 12, 2011, when the time for seeking such review expired. Answer 5; see also Md. Rule 8-302.

         Shortly thereafter, Morrison filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Howard County claiming, among other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to communicate the Sate's plea offers to him and ensure that he understood them. Pet. Post-Conviction Relief 5, ECF No. 7-6; Cir. Ct. Howard Cnty. Docket 9. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court issued a decision on April 2, 2014 granting Morrison a belated panel review of his sentence before a three-judge panel, but otherwise denying post-conviction relief. Post-Conviction Mem. Op. 16, ECF No. 7-7.

         Morrison filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of his ineffective of counsel claim. Appl. Leave Appeal, ECF No. 7-8. On February 15, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals denied Morrisonss application and issued a mandate the following month. Md. Ct. Spec. App. Mandate, ECF No. 5-3.

         As best as I can discern, Morrisonss request for habeas relief reasserts his claim that that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to communicate the plea offers to him. Pet. 9-10; Pet'r's Resp. 2, 4. For the reasons discussed below, Morrison is not entitled to relief.

         Threshold Considerations

         I previously determined that the petition was filed within the one-year limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. S 2244(d)(1). ECF NO.6. Further, Morrison no longer has any state direct review available to him with respect to the claim presented. See Answer 8. Thus, his claims are exhausted for the purpose of federal habeas corpus review. See 28 U.S.C. S 2254(c).

         Standard of Review

         Morrisonss ineffective assistance of counsel claim will be analyzed under the statutory framework of the federal habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. S 2254, which 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, " Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180 (2011) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)), and requires courts to "give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt, " id. (quoting Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24(2002)).

         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. S 2254(d).

         A state adjudication is contrary to clearly established federal law under S 2254(d)(1) where the state court (1) "arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law, " or (2) "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 under 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 ...


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