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Jones v. Chatman

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

May 25, 2017

ASHLEY LYNDOL JONES, Petitioner,
v.
BRUCE CHATMAN, Warden Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center, Respondent.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is Petitioner's Renewed Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing. (Doc. 88.) For the following reasons, Petitioner's motion is DENIED. As a result, Respondent's Motion Requesting Ruling on Petitioner's Motion for Evidentiary Hearing (Doc. 93) is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Respondent's Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages (Doc. 106) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. FACTUAL HISTORY

         The facts of this case were set forth by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Jones and his co-defendant, Allen Bunner, began the crime spree which led to the death of Keith Holland on the night before the murder, when they stole four cases of beer from a convenience store in Ware County. The co-defendants fled in an automobile with three other companions, who were waiting for them outside the store. The group spent the remainder of the night driving around aimlessly and drinking the stolen beer, until their car broke down and (Tones and Bunner left the others, stating they were going to find a truck.
The co-defendants stole a Ford truck, belonging to Rudolph Melton, which was parked in front of Melton1s residence. After driving around for several more hours in the stolen truck, they arrived at the home of the victim, Keith Holland. Bunner knocked on Holland's front door at approximately 5 a.m. and asked Holland's wife Mamie for assistance, on the pretext that the truck's battery was dead. Mamie Holland woke her husband, and he went outside to assist Bunner. As Holland was leaning over to look in the engine compartment of the truck, Jones struck him in the head from behind with a sledge hammer.
Mamie Holland witnessed the first blow from her dining room window and reacted by screaming for Jones to stop and by banging on the window. Jones turned and looked at her but continued to pound the victim, inflicting at least six blows to the head and face, all of which were potentially fatal. Prior to leaving in the victim's truck, Jones got out of the vehicle and hit the victim again, while he was lying on the ground. EMS workers arrived within minutes after the co-defendants1 departure. Because of the injuries to the victim's face, EMS workers were unable to perform CPR or intubate the victim, and he died before reaching the hospital.
Jones and Bunner drove to Florida in the victim's truck. They tossed Holland's personal belongings out of the truck along the way, and pawned two chain saws belonging to Melton. Police learned of their whereabouts through telephone calls made by the co-defendants to a friend in Georgia, and they were arrested at a welcome station south of the Georgia-Florida line. The victim's truck, which Jones and Bunner had burned, was found in the woods a short distance away.

Jones v. State, 267 Ga. 592, 592-93, 481 S.E.2d, 823-24 (1997).

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner was arrested on the afternoon of March 31, 1993. Seven days later, he was indicted in the Superior Court of Ware County, Georgia for malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, interference with government property, and theft by taking. (Doc. 96, Attach. 1 at 14.) He pled not guilty. (Doc. 96, Attach. 2 at 133.) His jury trial began on June 8, 1995.[1] (Doc. 24 at 13.) On June 10, 1995, he was convicted of all charges. (Doc. 96, Attach. 2 at 133.) Four days later, he was sentenced to death. (Doc. 24 at 13.)

         After a hearing, the trial court denied Petitioner's motion for a new trial. (Doc. 98, Attach. 8 at 29.) On March 10, 1997, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences. Jones v. State, 267 Ga. 592, 481 S.E.2d 821 (1997). A petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied on November 3, 1997. Jones v. Georgia, 522 U.S. 953 (1997).

         On February 5, 1998, the trial court signed an execution warrant and scheduled Petitioner's execution for the time period between February 24 and March 3, 1998. (Doc. 99, Attach. 6 at 7.) In response to the death warrant, Petitioner filed a state habeas corpus petition in the Superior Court of Butts County. (Id. The state habeas court conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 15, 1999 (Doc. 100, Attachs. 1-4; Doc. 101, Attachs. 1-5; Doc. 102, Attachs. 1-3), and ultimately denied the petition, as amended, on January 7, 2000 (Doc. 103, Attach. 1) . Further attempts to appeal were unavailing.

         After filing a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition in this Court (Doc. 5), Petitioner filed a Motion for Discovery seeking the opportunity to depose his trial and sentencing jurors (Doc. 31). The Court addressed Petitioner's request and ultimately denied his motion, concluding that many of his claims were procedurally defaulted. (Doc. 37.) Petitioner subsequently filed a Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing requesting an evidentiary hearing on similar claims to those for which he had requested discovery. (Doc. 50.) The Court dismissed that motion and ordered Petitioner to resubmit his request. (Doc. 54.) The Court denied Petitioner's second motion for an evidentiary hearing (Doc. 58) and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing Petitioner's request for an evidentiary-hearing in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011) . (Doc. 79.) The parties filed the requested briefs and Petitioner filed a renewed motion for an evidentiary-hearing. (Doc. 88.) Thereafter, the Court requested additional supplemental briefing on the issue of procedural default and exhaustion. (Doc. 94.) The parties have complied with the Court's directives and Petitioner's motion is now ripe for review. (Doc. 88.)

         In Petitioner's Renewed Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing (Doc. 88), he requests that the Court permit an evidentiary hearing on his claims based on juror misconduct, the seating of incompetent jurors, improper trial court rulings related to the dismissal of two jurors, the denial of his right to be present at a critical stage, and ineffective assistance of counsel. (Doc. 88.) Respondent argues that Petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing because his claims are either unexhausted and thus should be found procedurally defaulted, or were found to be procedurally defaulted by the state courts. (Doc. 107.) Respondent also ...


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