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Hall v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 30, 2016

BRIAN OWEN HALL, Petitioner,
MRS. JOHNSON, et al., Respondents.


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         On November 3, 2014, Petitioner Brian Owen Hall filed the instant 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition attacking his conviction and sentence for drug and firearm offenses entered in 2005 in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. (ECF No. 1). Respondents filed an Answer. (ECF No. 6). Petitioner has replied. (ECF No. 10). The Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (finding petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(2)). For the reasons that follow, the Petition will be denied and dismissed with prejudice and a Certificate of Appealability will not issue.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. State Court Proceedings

         Brian Owen Hall was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County and convicted of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of paraphernalia, and illegal possession of a firearm. (ECF No. 6, Ex. 1, 3, & 10).

         The facts adduced at trial, as summarized by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, follow:

On February 27, 2004, the Montgomery County Police Department executed a search warrant at the two bedroom apartment of Angela Hall, located at 18381 Lost Knife Road, Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, Maryland. Members of the police department recovered a variety of quantities and types of controlled dangerous substances and money, a handgun, and several personal documents from the apartment.
Upon entering, members of the SWAT performed a protective sweep of the apartment and discovered Earl Lomax and Lynn Mason, appellant's girlfriend, in the living room. In a back bedroom, they discovered appellant laying down on a bed. After handcuffing and placing appellant on the ground, SWAT officers observed appellant “fidgeting on the ground and subsequently [saw] him put his hands in the back of his pants and then [drop] a plastic bag onto the floor.” The bag contained crack cocaine and marijuana. In addition, SWAT also discovered $851 in appellant's pants pockets.
Richard Armagost, a non-SWAT police officer, and other members of his team then effectuated a search of the apartment, pursuant to the warrant. From appellant's room, the police recovered a paper bag with hundreds of unused glycine plastic bags. Additionally, they recovered a loaded .380 caliber handgun, a small amount of marijuana, and a stack of documents, many of which were in appellant's name. Two digital scales and men's clothing were also recovered from this room.
Inside the other bedroom, the police recovered small amounts of marijuana, cocaine in small baggies on top of a dresser, a total of $141 in cash, and a safe in the closet. From the safe, a document in appellant's name was recovered, along with $9, 370 in cash, some marijuana, seventy-seven grams of crack cocaine, two grams of powder cocaine, narcotics packaging paraphernalia, and a scale with cocaine residue on it. In the living room, where Earl Lomax and Lynn Mason were located, the police recovered a crack pipe and a quarter ounce of crack cocaine.

(ECF No. 6, Ex. 10 at 2-3) (footnotes omitted).

         Hall was sentenced on November 10, 2005 to a 14-year term of imprisonment. (Id., Ex. 1 & 4). He did not file a timely appeal.

         Petitioner instituted state post-conviction proceedings on November 9, 2007, raising the following claims: (A) prosecutorial misconduct in (1) allowing inconsistent and perjured testimony by a police officer, and (2) failing to disclose impeachment evidence; (B) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for (1) failing to file a notice of appeal, (2) failing to interview an alibi witness, (3) failing to move for a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct, and (4) having a conflict of interest; and (C) trial court error in not allowing trial counsel to strike his appearance. (ECF No. 6, Ex. 5).

         A hearing on Hall's post-conviction petition was held on April 8, 2010 in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. (Id.). On May 22, 2011, the post-conviction court granted Hall the right to file a belated direct appeal. The petition was denied in all other respects. (Id.). Hall filed an application for leave to appeal the decision of the post-conviction court, restating the issues ruled upon in the post-conviction proceedings. (Id., Ex. 6). The application was denied summarily by the Court of Special Appeals on August 28, 2012. (Id., Ex. 7).

         Hall's belated direct appeal raised the following issues; 1. Did the circuit court err in denying appellant's objection to irrelevant and highly prejudicial testimony regarding how police conduct street-level purchases of narcotics?

2. Did the circuit court err in admitting improper lay opinion that the drugs found in the apartment “absolutely” were meant for distribution?
3. Was the evidence sufficient to establish conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute?

(ECF No. 6, Ex. 8 at 2).

         On April 5, 2013, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed ...

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