Ronald v. Lazaroff
Memorandum, Opinion, and Order adopting the Report and Recommendation re 9 of the Magstrate Judge. The Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (2254) is denied and dismissed. An appeal from this decision may not be taken in good faith and there is no basis upon which to issue a certificate of appealability. Judge John R. Adams on 7/27/15. (K,C)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Alan J. Lazaroff,
CASE NO. 5:14CV1217
JUDGE JOHN R. ADAMS
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
This action is before the Court upon objections filed by Petitioner Ronald Kelly, asserting
error in the Report and Recommendation (“the R&R”) of the Magistrate Judge. The Court
ADOPTS the R&R (Doc. 9) in its entirety. The Petition is DENIED AND DISMISSED.
Where objections are made to a magistrate judge’s R&R this Court must:
must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has
been properly objected to. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the
magistrate judge with instructions.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). The Court has reviewed de novo the R&R as it relates to Kelly’s
objection. The objection lack merit.
At its core, Kelly’s objections center upon a claim that the R&R erred when it found that
the state court had not unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). The
Court finds no merit in this objection.
When analyzing a Strickland claim under § 2254(d), our review is “‘doubly deferential.’”
Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1403 (quoting Knowles v. Mirzayance, 129 S.Ct. 1411,
1420 (2009)). The key question “‘is whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel
satisfied Strickland’s deferential standard.’” Foust v. Houk, 655 F.3d 524, 533–34 (6th Cir.
2011) (emphasis added) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 788 (2011)).
Within his objections, Kelly asserts that his trial counsel’s “all or nothing” defense was
so unreasonable that it satisfies his high standard even under the AEDPA. In so arguing, Kelly
challenges the overall reasonableness of his strategic defense. However, Kelly did not raise such
a claim at any time in either his state court proceedings or in his petition before this Court.
Rather, Kelly raised the more limited claim of whether his counsel was ineffective for failing to
request jury instructions on lesser included offenses. That decision must be reviewed in light of
the overall defense strategy. Such a review leads to the conclusion that the R&R committed no
Kelly concedes, as he must, that his counsel pursued an “all or nothing” defense. Kelly
testified that he had absolutely no contact in any manner with the victim. He also repeatedly
pointed to his co-defendant, Barker, as the aggressor, going as far as to highlight an altercation
earlier in that same evening in which he claimed Barker was an aggressor. Kelly further put on
numerous character witnesses that all contending that he was not a violent individual. With that
background in mind, it was not only reasonable for defense counsel to decline to request
instructions on lesser included, but it may very well have been the only reasonable course of
action. Had counsel requested instructions on the lesser included offenses, one cannot conceive
how argument could be made on those offenses. Counsel would have been placed in a situation
of first arguing that the jury believe his client when Kelly testified that he was not involved in
any manner. Immediately thereafter, counsel would have to argue that even if his client were not
to be believed, the jury should find him guilty of only the lesser included offense. Effectively
requesting leniency for a defendant lying about his involvement in an altercation that led to a
death does not appear to be a viable defense strategy. As such, this Court finds no error in the
R&R’s conclusion that the trial court’s application of Strickland was not unreasonable.
Moreover, the Court would note Kelly’s suggestion that prejudice can easily be
demonstrated by the result of the co-defendant Barker’s appeal is equally unpersuasive. On
appeal, Barker demonstrated that his request that instructions on lesser included offenses should
have been granted. However, even assuming those instructions could have been given in Kelly’s
case, it does not follow that he has demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that his trial result
would have been different. In fact, within his objections in this matter, Kelly has admitted “no
fewer than ten state witnesses” testified that he kicked or stomped the victim in the chest or face.
Given that evidence, it is not likely that giving the lesser included offense instructions would
have altered the jury verdict. Once again, in arguing that prejudice is shown, Kelly seeks to
revisit the entirety of his defense strategy rather than focus on the very limited claim that has
been presented for review herein. In so doing, he essentially would have the Court re-try the
entire matter with an entirely distinct defense strategy formulated in hindsight years after the jury
verdict. Such an argument is not appropriate in the habeas context.
Kelly’s objections are overruled.
The R&R is adopted, and the petition is hereby
DENIED AND DISMISSED. The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an
appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. There is no basis on which to issue a
certificate of appealability. Fed. R. App. P. 22(b); 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
July 27, 2015
/s/ John R. Adams_______
JUDGE JOHN R. ADAMS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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