United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. Dowdell Chief Judge United States District Judge
the Court is William Stefvon Hurt's 28 U.S.C. § 2254
habeas corpus petition (Doc. 4). Hurt challenges his
first-degree murder conviction in Tulsa County District
Court, Case No. CF-2010-1963. For the reasons below, the
Court will deny the petition.
case stems from a fatal shooting at Cheyenne Park in Tulsa.
On the evening of May 16, 2010, Petitioner and his
co-defendant, Jerlon Morgan, encountered victim Marcus Lewis
at two locations. (Doc. 18-1 at 52-57; see also Doc.
18-2 at 11-16). Each time Morgan and the victim discussed
fighting. (Doc. 18-2 at 11, 15). According to eyewitnesses
Jarred Miller and Joseph Thomas, Petitioner and Morgan
followed the victim to Cheyenne Park. (Doc. 18-1 at 111;
see also Doc. 18-2 at 19). Petitioner was
purportedly driving a white Taurus with a black front-end
mask.(Doc. 18-1 at 143; see also Doc.
18-2 at 19). The witnesses testified that Petitioner shot the
victim after co-defendant Morgan and the victim engaged in a
physical fight. (Doc. 18-1 at 58-64; 69-71; see also
Doc. 18-2 at 22-27, 32-33).
State charged Petitioner with first-degree murder in
violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 701.7. (Doc. 17-4 at
1). His jury trial commenced on October 3, 2011. (Doc. 18-1).
Defense counsel argued Petitioner's family had already
sold the white Taurus, and that the eyewitnesses were lying.
(Doc. 17-1 at 18-21). After a five-day trial, the jury
convicted Petitioner of first-degree murder and recommended a
sentence of life imprisonment. (Doc. 18-4 at 143). The state
court sentenced him accordingly. (Doc. 18-6 at 4).
perfected a direct appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals (OCCA). By a summary opinion entered May 17, 2013,
the OCCA affirmed the conviction and sentence. (Doc. 17-4).
Petitioner filed the instant § 2254 petition (Doc. 4) on
February 7, 2017. He identifies three grounds of error:
(Ground 1): Insufficient evidence.
(Ground 2): Erroneous admission of opinion testimony.
(Ground 3): Prosecutorial misconduct.
(Ground 4): Ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
at 11, 14, 16, 20).
filed an answer (Doc. 17), along with relevant portions of
the state court record (Doc. 18), on August 17, 2017.
Respondent concedes, and the Court finds, that Petitioner
exhausted his state remedies. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 2244(d)(1); 2254(b)(1)(A). Respondent initially
argued the Petition was untimely, but the Court determined
tolling applied. (Docs. 10, 14). The matter is fully briefed
and ready for a merits review.
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs
this Court's review of petitioner's habeas claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Relief is only available
under the AEDPA where the petitioner “is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Further,
because the OCCA already adjudicated petitioner's claims,
this Court may not grant habeas relief unless he demonstrates
that the OCCA's ruling: (1) “resulted in a decision
that was contrary to . . . clearly established Federal law as
determined by Supreme Court of the United States, ” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); (2) “resulted in a decision that
. . . involved an unreasonable application of clearly
established Federal law, ” id.; or (3)
“resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of
the record presented to the state court, id. at
determine whether a particular decision is ‘contrary
to' then-established law, a federal court must consider
whether the decision ‘applies a rule that contradicts
[such] law' and how the decision ‘confronts [the]
set of facts' that were before the state court.”
Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011)
(alterations in original) (quotations omitted). When the
state court's decision “identifies the correct
governing legal principle in existence at the time, a federal
court must assess whether the decision ‘unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's
case.” Id. (quotations omitted).
Significantly, an “unreasonable application of”
clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1)
“must be objectively unreasonable, not merely
wrong.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702
(2014) (quotations omitted). “[E]ven clear error will
not suffice.” Id. Likewise, under §
2254(d)(2), “a state-court factual determination is not
unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would
have reached a different conclusion in the first
instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301
(2010). The Court must presume the correctness of the
OCCA's factual findings unless petitioner rebuts that
presumption “by clear and convincing evidence.”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
the standards set forth in § 2254 are designed to be
“difficult to meet, ” Harrington v.
Richter,562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011), and require federal
habeas courts to give state court decisions the
“benefit of the doubt.” Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). A state prisoner
ultimately “must show that the state court's ruling
... was so lacking in justification that there was an error