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Lee v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison

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

March 20, 2019

JAMES ALLYSON LEE, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Georgia Diagnostic Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Lisa Godbey Wood, Judge

         Before the Court is Petitioner James Allyson Lee's Motion to Alter and Amend the Judgment. Dkt. Nos. 100, 116. In that Motion, Petitioner also renewed his application for a Certificate of Appealability. Id. For the reasons state below, the Motion is DENIED and the Application for a Certificate of Appealability PCOA") is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. The Underlying Conviction and Direct Appeal

          On June 4, 1997, Lee was convicted by a jury of malice murder, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Lee v. State, 514 S.E.2d 1, 2 (Ga. 1999). He was also convicted of felony murder, but that conviction was vacated by operation of law. Id. at 3 n.1. On June 6, 1997, Lee was sentenced to death. Hall v. Lee, 684 S.E.2d 868');">684 S.E.2d 868, 871 (Ga. 2009); see also Dkt.. No. 12-3 at 85, 91-92. On direct appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld Lee's conviction. Lee, 514 S.E.2d 1. The United States Supreme Court denied Lee's petition for a writ of certiorari and denied his petition for a rehearing. Lee v. Georgia, 528 U.S. 1006 (1999), reh'g den'd 528 U.S. 1145 (2000).

         II. Habeas History

         On August 4, 2000, Lee filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County. Dkt. No. 20-16 at 2. On March 12, 2009, that court granted Lee's petition. See generally id. On November 2, 2009, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously reversed the granting of the petition. Hall v. Lee, 684 S.E.2d 868');">684 S.E.2d 868 (Ga. 2009).

         On February 5, 2010, Lee filed his federal habeas petition in this Court. Dkt. No. 1. In September 2010, he amended it. Dkt. No. 29. The petition argued for relief on five grounds: "(1) ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) improper jury instructions; (3) a violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); (4) trial-court errors; and (5) violations of the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments by imposition of the death sentence in this case." Lee v. Upton, 2017 WL 4158643, at *3 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 19, 2017). The Court denied Lee's petition. Id. The Court also did not rule on Lee's application for a COA. Id.

         On October 17, 2017, Lee moved to alter and amend the judgment of the Court that denied his habeas petition arguing that the Court incorrectly applied federal law when ruling on one of Lee's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims. Dkt. Nos. 100, 116. Lee also applied, in the alternative, for a COA. Id.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Rule 59(e)

         "The only grounds for granting [a Rule 59(e)] motion are newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact." Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2007) (emphasis added) (quoting In re Kellogg, 197 F.3d 1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1999)). "Reconsideration under Rule 59 is an extraordinary remedy that should be employed sparingly." Yulin Ma v. Au, 2009 WL 10702953, at *4 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 29, 2009). "[A] Rule 59(e) motion [cannot be used] to relitigate old matters, raise argument or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment." Id. (quoting Michael Linet, Inc., v. Village of Wellington, Fla., 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005)). Thus, "the Court will only grant Plaintiff's motion if (1) it presents newly-discovered evidence or (2) identifies manifest errors of law or fact." Jolley v. Donovan, 2011 WL 6400306, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 19, 2011).

         II. Certificate of Appealability

         Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(b)(1) provides in relevant part: "In a habeas corpus proceeding in which the detention complained of arises from process issued by a state court . . . the applicant cannot take an appeal unless a circuit justice or a circuit or district judge issues a [COA] under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)." Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a COA should be issued "only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." The United States Supreme Court has recently reemphasized that "[t]he COA inquiry ... is not coextensive with a merits analysis." Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759, 773 (2017) . Rather, at this stage, "the only question is whether the applicant has shown that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his ...


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