Pinion v. Hetzel
MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING and ACCEPTING the 12 Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and OVERRULING the Petitioner's 15 Objections. Signed by Judge James H Hancock on 7/24/2015. (JLC)
2015 Jul-24 AM 11:13
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES MICHAEL PINION,
DEPUTY WARDEN GARY HETZEL and )
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE )
STATE OF ALABAMA,
Case Number: 2:12-cv-02789-JHH-JHE
On July 1, 2015, the magistrate judge entered a Report and Recommendation, recommending
that this petition for writ of habeas corpus be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 12). Petitioner James
Michael Pinion has filed objections. (Doc. 15). For the following reasons, his objections are
First, Pinion asserts he exhausted all state remedies in a timely manner because he appealed
through one full round of state-court appeals. (Id. at 1). The magistrate judge acknowledged as
much, (doc. 12 at 1-2), but found Pinion’s claims procedurally defaulted on adequate and
independent state grounds and failure to fairly present a claim to the state courts. (Id. at 4-5). To
the extent this was intended as an objection, it is OVERRULED.
In the first numbered objection, Pinion asserts his argument regarding the verdict form typo
was properly preserved, (doc. 15 at 2); however, that question is not before this Court because he did
not raise it as a claim in this habeas action, (see doc. 1 at 5-6). This objection is OVERRULED.
In his second, third, and fourth numbered objections, Pinion asserts he properly preserved
the issues of the character testimony of Bobbi Pickle,1 the alleged Brady violation, and the videotape
testimony, (doc. 15 at 2-4); however, as the magistrate judge noted, Pinion does not present any
federal question on these points, merely arguing that the state court’s holding regarding state law was
wrong and the underlying federal question should have been addressed. This Court will not
“reexamine state-court determinations on state-law questions.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 6768 (1991). These objections are OVERRULED.
The final two numbered objections address Pinion’s assertion the state trial court had the
discretion to sentence him to a split sentence and that a failure to do so was cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 15 at 4-5). These objections merely restate
Pinion’s arguments before the magistrate judge, which fail on the same grounds as set out in the
report and recommendation: the split sentence issue is both meritless, see Ala. Code § 15-18-8(a)
(exempting sex offenses against children under twelve), and a state-law question this Court will not
reexamine, see Estelle, 502 U.S. at 67-68; and the Eighth Amendment claim is both meritless, see
United States v. Farley, 607 F. 3d 1294, 1343 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming a longer sentence for
unsuccessfully attempting a similar crime), and procedurally defaulted, see McNair v. Campbell, 415
F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2005) (requiring the federal claim be fairly presented throughout the state
proceedings and not hidden in the record). These objections are OVERRULED.
The substance of the character-witness claim is just as meritless regarding Bobbi Pickle as
it is regarding Daniel Pickle. As the magistrate judge set out in his report and recommendation,
Alabama’s Mercy Rule does not allow the testimony Pinion seeks, see Abney v. State, 586 So. 2d
995, 998 (Ala. Ct. Crim. App. 1991), and any permissible evidence disallowed beyond what the trial
court did allow would not have rendered the entire trial fundamentally unfair, see Tejada v. Dugger,
941 F.2d 1551, 1560 (11th Cir. 1991).
The court has considered the entire file in this action, together with the report and
recommendation, and has reached an independent conclusion that the report and recommendation
is due to be adopted and approved. Accordingly, the court hereby adopts and approves the findings
and recommendation of the magistrate judge as the findings and conclusions of this court. The
petition for writ of habeas corpus is due to be DISMISSED. A separate Order will be entered.
This Court may issue a certificate of appealability “only if the applicant has a made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). To make such
a showing, a “petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s
assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong,” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484
(2000), or that “the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further,”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003) (internal quotations omitted). This Court finds
Petitioner’s claims do not satisfy either standard.
DONE this the
day of July, 2015.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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