Jones v. Hetzel
ORDER ADOPTING the 34 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS. The petition is denied, and this action is dismissed with prejudice. The petitioner is not entitled to a certificate of appealability and is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis. Signed by District Judge William H. Steele on 10/16/17. Copy mailed to Plaintiff. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MYRON CANTRELL JONES, etc.,
) CIVIL ACTION 13-0012-WS-B
This matter is before the Court on the report and recommendation (“R&R”)
of the Magistrate Judge that the petition be denied and the action dismissed with
prejudice. (Doc. 34). The petitioner timely filed objections to the R&R. (Doc.
The one and only claim raised in the petition is that the state knowingly
used false evidence to obtain a conviction in violation of Giglio v. United States,
405 U.S. 150 (1972). (Doc. 1 at 7). The claim is based on the post-trial affidavit
of the state’s principal witness, Michael Booker, to the effect that his trial
testimony incriminating the defendant was false and given with the expectation he
would receive more lenient treatment on unrelated charges then pending against
him. (Id. at 14-15). The petitioner raised this claim in a state Rule 32 proceeding.
(Id. at 4). The trial judge conducted an evidentiary hearing in March 2012, at
which Booker testified that, although he executed the affidavit, he did so only
because he and his family had been threatened with extreme violence by one of the
petitioner’s co-defendants and his associates and because he had been paid $1,300
by a co-defendant’s girlfriend to sign the affidavit, which he did not author but
which she presented to him for signature. Booker testified that the affidavit was
false and that his trial testimony was truthful. The trial judge, who heard Booker’s
Rule 32 testimony and observed his demeanor, found as a fact that Booker was
telling the truth at the hearing and that Booker’s affidavit was false and his trial
testimony truthful. (Doc. 9-29 at 4-5). The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed
this ruling as within the trial judge’s discretion. (Id. at 5-6).
An essential element of a Giglio claim is that the prosecution in fact used
false testimony at trial. E.g., Trepal v. Secretary, Florida Department of
Corrections, 684 F.3d 1088, 1107-08 (11th Cir. 2012). The Rule 32 Court found
as a fact that Booker did not give false testimony at trial. This Court is forbidden
by law to reject the state court’s ruling on the Giglio claim unless it “was based on
an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the
State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). Moreover, “a determination of
a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct[, and] [t]he
applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by
clear and convincing evidence. Id. § 2254(e)(1). The Supreme Court “ha[s] not
yet defined the precise relationship between § 2254(d)(2) and § 2254(e)(1),”
Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S. Ct. 2269, 2282 (2015), although the Eleventh Circuit has
hinted that the former standard is “arguably more forgiving.” Clark v. Attorney
General, 821 F.3d 1270, 1286 n.3 (11th Cir. 2016). In any event, “a state-court
factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court
would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Burt v. Titlow,
134 S. Ct. 10, 15 (2013) (internal quotes omitted).
The petitioner does not acknowledge this standard of review, but he is
subject to it nonetheless. Nor has he explained how the Rule 32 trial judge’s
factual determination that Booker’s affidavit was false and his trial testimony
truthful was (or even could be) unreasonable based on the evidence before him.
The petitioner suggests that Booker’s admission he took money to sign a false
affidavit proves that everything he says is false. (Doc. 35 at 8). While that might
(or might not) be a reasonable conclusion, another reasonable conclusion is that
Booker was motivated by fear and greed to sign a false affidavit but gave truthful
testimony at trial and at the evidentiary hearing.
The petitioner says that Booker is a convict, a thief and a crackhead and
that he gave conflicting statements to law enforcement before settling on the
version presented at trial. (Doc. 35 at 3, 9). The same response applies; even if
such circumstances could suggest Booker was lying at trial, they do not render it
unreasonable to conclude he was not lying at trial.
The petitioner says there was no evidence presented at the Rule 32 hearing
that Booker really received $1,300 or that he was threatened. (Doc. 35 at 4). This
is simply wrong; Booker himself testified to these circumstances, and his
testimony is evidence. It is the petitioner – who called Booker at the evidentiary
hearing – that failed to present any countering evidence.
Finally, the petitioner argues that the affidavit of Booker’s girlfriend
(“Davis”) demonstrates that Booker perjured himself at trial. (Doc. 35 at 2, 4-5).
Section 2254(d)(2), however, requires the petitioner to show that the trial court’s
factual finding was unreasonable based on the evidence presented to it, and the
petitioner did not present any evidence from Davis in state court.
“[R]ecantations are viewed with extreme suspicion by the courts,” in part
because they are “very often unreliable and given for suspect motives.” In re:
Davis, 565 F.3d 810, 825 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal quotes omitted). On top of this
inherent unreliability can be added Booker’s recantation of his recantation, his
reasoned explanation for his affidavit, and the Rule 32 judge’s ability to gauge
Booker’s credibility on the witness stand. Nothing presented to the Court even
remotely suggests that the Rule 32 judge’s finding of fact was incorrect, much less
In summary, the Rule 32 judge found that Booker presented truthful
testimony at trial. That finding is not unreasonable based on the evidence
presented to the Rule 32 judge, and it is therefore binding on the Court. Because a
Giglio violation requires proof that the prosecution presented false testimony, and
because the Rule 32 judge properly found Booker did not offer false testimony, the
petitioner’s only claim fails as a matter of law.
The petitioner argues the Magistrate Judge should have given him an
evidentiary hearing. (Doc. 35 at 1, 5-7). If a petitioner “has failed to develop the
factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an
evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows that … the claim relies
on … a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through
the exercise of due diligence ….” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). The petitioner notes
that, “[i]f there has been no lack of diligence at the relevant stages in the state
proceedings,” then he has not “failed to develop the record.” Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 420, 437 (2000). True enough, but to be diligent in this sense he must be
“diligent in developing the record.” Id.1 To the extent the petitioner relies on the
evidence presented at the Rule 32 evidentiary hearing, he may have been diligent
in developing the record, but the Court is bound to honor the Rule 32 judge’s
factual finding as discussed above. To the extent the petitioner relies on additional
information about Booker and his credibility that he did not present at the Rule 32
hearing, he obviously was not diligent in attempting to present such evidence,
since he was aware of it at the time. And to the extent he relies on Davis’s
November 2016 affidavit, it is equally obvious he did not exercise due diligence.
The defendant knew Davis was present at the shooting in December 2001 and,
although she did not testify at the October 2004 trial, he and his lawyer knew her
name at that time. (Doc. 9-6 at 8; Doc. 9-8 at 57). The petitioner identifies not a
single effort that he, or anyone acting on his behalf, made to locate and interview
Davis at any point before the March 2012 Rule 32 evidentiary hearing. This is not
“[W[here a petitioner was granted an evidentiary hearing … and the petitioner
failed to take full advantage of that hearing, despite being on notice of and having access
to the potential evidence and having sufficient time to prepare for the hearing, that
petitioner did not exercise diligence in developing the factual foundation of his claim in
state court.” Pope v. Secretary, Department of Corrections, 680 F.3d 1271, 1289 (11th
diligence but its exact opposite.2 Nor has the petitioner suggested, much less
demonstrated, that neither he nor anyone acting on his behalf could have found
Davis in the space of seven years had they exercised due diligence.3 Accordingly,
the Magistrate Judge was prohibited by Section 2254(e)(2) from holding an
After due and proper consideration of all portions of this file deemed
relevant to the issues raised, and a de novo determination of those portions of the
R&R to which objection is made, the R&R is adopted as the opinion of the Court,
supplemented by the foregoing discussion. The petition is denied, and this action
is dismissed with prejudice. The petitioner is not entitled to a certificate of
appealability and, consequently, is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis.
DONE and ORDERED this 16th day of October, 2017.
s/WILLIAM H. STEELE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
See Pope, 680 F.3d at 1289 n.12 (citing examples of lack of due diligence).
The burden is on the petitioner to make such a showing. Williams, 529 U.S. at
Davis could not have made a difference even had she testified. While her
affidavit and recorded questioning state she did not see or hear the incriminating evidence
Booker testified he saw and heard, she also testified that she was far distant from Booker
and that she cannot say whether he saw and heard what he testified he saw and heard.
(Doc. 33 at 5-11). Such insipid testimony could not possibly prove that Booker lied.
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