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Edwards v. Marshall

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

July 18, 2019

CARLTON RAYMAN EDWARDS, Petitioner,
v.
STEVE MARSHALL, Alabama Attorney General, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Carlton Raymond Edwards, through counsel, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). Mr. Edwards challenges his 2010 conviction in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court for manslaughter. (Id. at 1). On April 23, 2019, the magistrate judge to whom the case was referred entered a report pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), recommending that the court deny Mr. Edwards' § 2254 petition. (Doc. 10). Mr. Edwards filed timely objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. 15).

         Most of Mr. Edwards' objections repeat arguments that he presented in his § 2254 petition and that the magistrate judge already addressed in the report and recommendation. After carefully reviewing the record, the report and recommendation, and the objections, the court finds that the report and recommendation correctly resolved those arguments and OVERRULES those objections without further discussion. The court will, however, address Mr. Edwards' remaining objections at more length.

         A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel for Failing to Request a Pretrial Immunity Hearing

         Mr. Edwards contends that he established prejudice from trial counsel's failure to request a pretrial immunity hearing because, without such a hearing counsel lost “an important opportunity to get the statements of various witnesses under oath to further effectively challenge them at trial.” (Doc. 15 at 6).

         The undisputed testimony at trial established that Mr. Edwards and Mr. Spencer got into an argument, leading to Mr. Edwards shooting Mr. Spencer. (See Doc. 10 at 2-4). Mr. Edwards has not alleged how the sworn testimony at the pretrial immunity hearing would have differed from the sworn testimony at trial in a way that would have a substantial likelihood of changing the result of the trial. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 112 (2011) (“The likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not just conceivable.”); (see Doc. 15 at 6; see also Doc. 1 at 54). The court cannot accept “conclusory allegations unsupported by specifics.” Tejada v. Dugger, 941 F.2d 1551, 1559 (11th Cir. 1991). Accordingly, the court OVERRULES this objection.

         B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel for Failing to Interview the Medical Examiner Prior to Trial

         Mr. Edwards contends that the magistrate judge improperly focused on whether interviewing the medical examiner before trial would have changed the manner of Mr. Spencer's death, but his claim actually alleges that trial counsel failed to properly prepare for trial by interviewing the medical examiner, as a result of which he was surprised by the medical examiner's testimony about Mr. Edwards possibly causing injuries to Mr. Spencer's head and neck during the fight. (Doc. 15 at 11-14).

         Even assuming that trial counsel's failure to interview the medical examiner amounted to deficient performance, Mr. Edwards has not established prejudice. He asserts that because trial counsel was surprised by the medical examiner's testimony about the injuries to Mr. Spencer's head and neck, counsel “did not have any rebuttal other than trying to argue the marks could have been caused by a chain Spencer was wearing . . . and by Mr. Spencer's head striking the wall.” (Doc. 15 at 13). But he does not allege what other tactic or line of questioning counsel might have pursued with the benefit of further investigation, or how that unspecified line of questioning would have had a substantial likelihood of changing the outcome of the case. See Harrington, 562 U.S. at 112. The court cannot rely on Mr. Edwards' conclusory and speculative allegation of prejudice. See Tejada, 941 F.2d at 1559. Accordingly, the court OVERRULES this objection.

         C. Ineffective Assistance for Failing to Obtain Sworn and Unparaphrased Witness Statements

          In his objection to the report and recommendation's treatment of this claim, Mr. Edwards appears to request discovery so that he can prove the existence of the statements at the root of this claim. (Doc. 15 at 18-19). However, Mr. Edwards has never made a formal discovery request from this court, instead asking, in a footnote, for the court to order production of the statements. (See Doc. 1 at 54 n.15).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34, a party requesting discovery must “serve on any other party a request” for discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Mr. Edwards has not done so, and the court does not find an informal request made in a footnote to satisfy the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the Rules Governing § 2254 Proceedings. See Rule 6(b), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. The court OVERRULES this objection.

         D. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel at Sentencing

         Mr. Edwards contends that the court should review this ineffective assistance claim de novo because no state court has adjudicated the actual claim that he presented; he asserts ...


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