United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lyntellus Brooks, currently confined at North Branch
Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, filed a
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. ECF No. 1. Petitioner, who is self-represented,
challenges the validity of his 2009 conviction in the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County, Maryland for
carjacking, second-degree assault, auto theft, and
transporting a handgun on a roadway. Id. at 1.
Respondents filed an Answer, in which they seek dismissal of
the Petition on the merits and on the basis of procedural
default. ECF No. 6. The Court finds no need for an
evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing
Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts;
Md. Local Rule 105.6; see also Fisher v. Lee, 215
F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000). For the reasons that follow,
the Petition is denied and dismissed, and a Certificate of
Appealability shall not issue.
December 9, 2008, Brooks was indicted in the Circuit Court
for Prince George's County for carjacking and related
offenses arising from events that took place on November 7,
2008. ECF No. 6-1 at 1, 4-7. After a three-day trial, on
August 28, 2009, a jury convicted Brooks of carjacking,
second-degree assault, auto theft, and transporting a handgun
on a roadway. ECF No. 6-4 at 20-23. On October 23, 2009,
Brooks was sentenced to a total of 30 years imprisonment. ECF
No. 6-1 at 12.
trial, the State introduced evidence to establish the
following. On the evening of November 7, 2008, Brooks and
Clarence Butler arrived at an elementary school dressed in
black and wearing masks. ECF No. 6-2 at 131. Butler testified
that both men were armed with guns. Id. at 132. As a
woman placed something in the trunk of her vehicle in the
school's parking lot, the two men approached her and
demanded her car keys. Id. at 134. Brooks displayed
his weapon, and the woman complied with their commands.
Id. A family in a minivan witnessed the carjacking
and pulled up behind the stolen vehicle in an attempt to
prevent Brooks and Butler from leaving the parking lot.
Id. at 30, 135. Butler stepped out of the vehicle
and pointed his gun at the driver of the minivan.
Id. at 74, 135. Brooks was then able to drive the
stolen car over a curb and exit the parking lot. Id.
at 136. After Brooks drove off, the victim called the police.
Several police officers were able to pursue the stolen
vehicle and eventually arrested Brooks and Butler after they
had exited the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot.
Id. at 97, 117.
days before the carjacking, a homicide had occurred several
blocks from the elementary school. ECF No. 6-8 at 13. During
the arrest of Butler and Brooks immediately following the
carjacking, the police seized a weapon, which they determined
was linked to the homicide. Id. While Butler was in
custody for the carjacking, he told the police that Brooks
had confessed to the murder. Id. at 15-16. Brooks
was then charged for both the homicide and the carjacking.
Id. at 16. Butler, in contrast, entered into a
cooperation agreement with the State and agreed to testify
against Brooks at both trials. Id. at 17. As part of
that deal, Butler pleaded guilty to carjacking and two counts
of first-degree assault, while a number of other charges were
dismissed. Id. at 40-41. Moreover, the State agreed
he would receive a sentence within the range of two to 21
years total, rather than the 30 years he could have faced on
one count of carjacking. Id. at 41. When Butler
testified at Brooks' carjacking trial, he stated that he
pleaded guilty to carjacking and to two counts of
first-degree assault. ECF No. 6-2 at 139. On
cross-examination, however, Brooks' trial counsel did not
ask a single follow-up question about Butler's plea deal.
Id. at 140-49. Accordingly, no testimony was
elicited as to the favorable terms of his deal.
sentencing, Brooks challenged his conviction on direct
appeal. ECF No. 6-5 at 2. On June 7, 2011, the Court of
Special Appeals, finding no reversible error, affirmed
Brooks' conviction. Id. at 1-2.
12, 2011, Brooks filed a pro se petition for state
post-conviction relief, asserting similar claims as those
raised on direct appeal. ECF No. 6-6 at 5. On October 6,
2014, Brooks, through counsel, amended his petition
withdrawing the claims he initially raised and asserting two
claims based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel. ECF
No. 6-7 at 4; ECF No. 6-8 at 5. Brooks claimed he received
ineffective assistance when trial counsel failed (1) to
cross-examine Butler with impeachment evidence of his
favorable plea deal and prior convictions, and (2) to object
to certain statements made by the State during closing
argument. ECF No. 6-7 at 4. After holding a hearing on the
amended petition, the state court denied Brooks' petition
on May 14, 2015. ECF No. 6-9 at 1-3. Brooks filed an
application for leave to appeal that decision, which the
Court of Special Appeals summarily denied. ECF Nos. 6-10,
February 7, 2017, Brooks filed his federal Petition for a
Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. ECF No. 1. In his petition, Brooks asserts two
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at
5, 7. Respondent filed an Answer, arguing Brooks'
petition should be denied based on the merits and procedural
default. ECF No. 6.
Standard of Review
federal habeas statute at 28 U.S.C § 2254 states that a
district court “shall entertain an application for a
writ of habeas corpus in 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.
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, 853 (2005). This standard is
“difficult to meet, ” and requires federal courts
to give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt.
Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A state
prisoner must show that a state court ruling on a claim
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.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).
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 ...