Sinyard v. Mitchim et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Judge Karon O Bowdre on 8/15/12. (SAC )
2012 Aug-15 PM 04:24
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JEFFREY ALLEN SINYARD,
WARDEN MITCHIM and THE
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE
STATE OF ALABAMA,
Civil Action Number
Petitioner Jeffrey Allen Sinyard is serving concurrent life sentences in Limestone
Correctional Facility following his conviction for reckless murder and second-degree assault in
the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this
court on April 25, 2011. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1).1 After preliminary review, the
magistrate judge assigned to this case issued a report and recommendation finding that the
petition was due to be denied and dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 17). On June 22, 2012,
Sinyard objected to the magistrate judge’s determination. (Doc. 18 & 19). For the reasons stated
below, this court finds that the Report and Recommendation is due to be ADOPTED and the
petition DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
In the habeas petition, Sinyard alleges four grounds for relief: (1) prosecutorial
misconduct before the grand jury; (2) a violation of his substantive due process rights because
“the entire petit [j]ury pool was, in all likelihood, prejudiced” against him by “prejudicial verbage
References herein to “Doc. ___” are to the electronic numbers assigned by the Clerk of the Court.
[sic] stated by a potential juror”; (3) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (4) ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel. (Doc. 1-1 at 5, 12, 15, 23; Doc. 5, and Doc. 9). In the report and
recommendation, the magistrate judge found that the petition was due to be dismissed with
prejudice because all of his claims were procedurally barred for failing to seek certiorari review
during the post-conviction process and also were without merit. (Doc. 17 at 13).
In his objection to the report and recommendation, petitioner first argues that his claims
are not procedurally barred. Petitioner asserts multiple times that he is unable to read and write
and this inability should excuse any default. (Doc. 18 at 1, 5, 13–14). However, the magistrate
judge found that the “record is replete with numerous, lengthy filings in the State courts raising
and arguing various matters. His [Sinyard’s] failure to seek certiorari review is not excusable
under the circumstances.” (Doc. 17 at 11). The undersigned agrees: petitioner has been able to
advance his claims through out the post-conviction process. To the extent he asserts in the
objection that if he had “sought certiorari review, the time such would have consumed would
have caused the remaining few days to seek federal review to run out,” the court is not
impressed. (Doc. 18 at 6). This review time is excluded under the statute of limitations when a
State petition for review is timely filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).
Petitioner next argues that his “failure to exhaust all availible [sic] state court remedies is
not an absolute bar to [f]ederal [h]abeas [c]orpus review.” (Doc. 18 at 7). This objection is
without merit for two reasons. First, for Sinyard to establish cause for a procedural default, he
must show that “something external to the petitioner, something that cannot fairly be attributed to
him[,] ... ‘impeded [his] efforts to comply with the State’s procedural rule.’” Maples v. Thomas,
___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 912, 922 (2012) (internal citations omitted). This he has failed to do.2
Second, he has failed to demonstrate adequate prejudice. The magistrate judge found that
“Sinyard failed to show prejudice sufficient to overcome his procedural default as to any claim.”
(Doc. 17 at 7). Nothing in the objection warrants a contrary finding.
Sinyard also makes conclusory arguments that he is actually innocent. In support of this
claim, he argues that the State failed to produce medial records supporting that the assault victim,
Derek Smith, was treated for a gun shot injury; the testimony of the assault victim was
incredible; and, he (Sinyard) had “an eye witness who saw someone shoot a long rifle from a
house during the alleged assault and murder.” (Doc. 18 at 7-8). After review of the record,
including the trial transcript, the magistrate judge determined that medical records were
unnecessary because the assault victim testified as to the events and his injuries, and Sinyard’s
alleged eye-witness testimony was self-serving and, therefore, due be afforded little weight in
light of contradictory testimony of other eye witnesses. (Doc. 17 at 13). Consequently, the
magistrate judge found “Sinyard has not demonstrated that ‘it is more likely than not that no
reasonable juror would have convicted him.’” (Id. (citing Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S.
614, 623 (1998)). Sinyard has failed in his objection to present anything demonstrating that he is
actually innocent. This objection, therefore, is without merit.3
The magistrate judge additionally reviewed the Supreme Court’s recent decision and its application to
petitioner’s case, which held that “inadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may
establish cause for a prisoner’s procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial.” Martinez v. Ryan, ___
U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 1309, 1315 (2012). However, Sinyard’s default did not occur during the initial-review
proceeding; therefore, he does not qualify under the Martinez exception.
The court notes that the purported exculpatory testimony is not new evidence supporting a claim of actual
innocence. To the contrary, the record demonstrates that the witness, Darrin (a.k.a Darren) Wigginton, was not
called by trial counsel because two witnesses “identified Darrin Wigginton as a participant in the events.” (Doc. 1415 at 28 of 61). Thus, his testimony would have been of little value.
In sum, having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court
file, including the report and recommendation and petitioner’s objections, the court finds that the
magistrate judge’s report is due to be adopted and approved. The court hereby adopts and
approves the findings and recommendation of the magistrate judge as the findings and
conclusions of the court. In accord with the recommendation, this petition for writ of habeas
corpus is due to be dismissed with prejudice. An appropriate order will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this 15th day of August, 2012.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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