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Edge v. Lawler

November 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Reynolds Hay Chief United States Magistrate Judge

Amy Reynolds Hay Chief Magistrate Judge


Raj Karee Edge ("Petitioner"), a state prisoner, was convicted in a jury trial of first degree murder and conspiracy in the shooting death of Jason Faulk. Petitioner has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to Section 2254, attacking his convictions. Unfortunately, the habeas petition is not a model of clarity. However, Petitioner does raise several trial court errors and several ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Because the state courts rejected most of the claims on the merits, and because Petitioner fails to show that the state courts' disposition of his claims was contrary to or an unreasonable application of United States Supreme Court precedent, his petition should be denied. In addition, the state courts did not address some of the issues Petitioner raises herein because he did not properly raise the issues in the state court proceedings. Accordingly, we find those issues to be procedurally defaulted and furthermore, we find that Petitioner has not carried his burden to show cause and prejudice or a miscarriage of justice in order to entitle him to have those issues addressed herein on the merits.

Relevant Factual and Procedural History

The trial court recounted the facts underlying the conviction as follows:

In the early morning hours of October, 4, 1998, the appellant, Raj Karee Edge, (hereinafter referred to as "Edge"), John Johnson, (hereinafter referred to as "Johnson"), and Donald Thomas, (hereinafter referred to as "Thomas"), were in a number of bars in the Hill District section of the City of Pittsburgh. While inside one bar, Johnson received a telephone call from his girlfriend, Ebony. She told Johnson that a person by the name of Jason Faulk, (hereinafter referred to as "Faulk"), the homicide victim in this case, had been involved in the burglary of the residence shared by Johnson and Ebony. Edge, Thomas and Johnson then decided to make Faulk pay for the burglary by killing him. The three individuals agreed that they needed to secure more firepower. They then picked up a fourth male by the name of Ronald Williams, (hereinafter referred to as "Williams"), who brought with him a nine millimeter semi-automatic firearm.

The individuals then travelled [sic] to Johnson's neighborhood, the Arlington Heights Section of the City of Pittsburgh, where they thought Faulk might be found. At approximately 3:00 a.m. on October 4, 1998, the group was proceeding along Arlington Avenue when they spotted Faulk, walking along the street. Thomas stopped the car before Faulk noticed the group and a number of the individuals exited the vehicle. Williams and Johnson, each armed with their firearms, approached Faulk and began firing at him. The initial volley caused Faulk to fall to the ground on his hands and knees. A second volley of shots was fired at Faulk and then he went completely to the ground. The third volley of shots was fired by Edge while Faulk was lying on the ground.

The shooting of Faulk, was witnessed by Jackie Green, (hereinafter referred to as "Green"), a woman who lived directly across the street from the incident in an apartment. Green saw Johnson standing over Faulk and shooting him and then saw other individuals involved shooting at Faulk as well. Once the shooting stopped, Johnson ran over to the door of his building [i.e., the building wherein was the apartment Johnson and Ebony shared, which apartment Faulk had allegedly burglarized] opened the door and told the other individuals to give him the straps and bounce. (Trial Transcript at 700). Green testified that she was familiar with those terms and that Johnson was telling the other individuals to give him the guns and run. The individuals, in fact, gave Johnson the weapons. Johnson then went inside and the other individuals ran to the car and left. Green then saw Johnson in his apartment. Green called 911 and a number of police officers arrived on the scene. Faulk was found dead with seven bullet wounds in his body. Green told the officers that Johnson was one of the actors involved and indicated where his residence was located. Upon receiving consent to search the apartment from Ebony, the police recovered three handguns from underneath a mattress upon which Ebony's children were sleeping.

Based upon the investigation performed by City of Pittsburgh homicide detectives, Edge was identified as an individual who might have information regarding the shooting of Faulk and the detectives requested that he meet with them and discuss the incident. Edge agreed, and after properly being given the necessary warnings and rights, Edge waived his rights and agreed to speak with the detectives and signed a waiver of rights form. He then proceeded to detail his involvement in the shooting of Faulk and the circumstances surrounding the incident. After making a number of corrections to the statement given to the homicide detectives, Edge adopted the statement with his signature. As a result of this incident, Edge was charged with criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy, and carrying a firearm without a license.

A jury trial commenced in this Court on May 9, 2001 and Edge was convicted on all counts. On September 5, 2001, Edge was sentenced to a mandatory life term of imprisonment for first degree murder and, in addition, was sentenced to thirteen and one-half to twenty-seven years of incarceration on Edge's conviction for criminal conspiracy and carrying a firearm without a license, said sentences to run consecutive to his life sentence. Edge thereafter appealed to the Superior Court.. . .

Dkt. [9-3] at 2 to 4 (footnotes omitted). .

In the instant habeas filing, Petitioner raises the following claims:

GROUND ONE: Denial of Fifth Amendment -- Petitioner did not knowingly waive his Miranda rights . . . . Petitioner was not properly informed he was under arrest and charged with murder.

Dkt. [1] at 5.

GROUND TWO: Denial of a fair trial -- Judge prevented Defense presentation of witness bias. . . . Trial Court sustained an objection to petitioner[']s questioning the bias of prosecution witness Jackie Green -- questioning would reveal the witness['] testimony was [a] product of personal animus.

Dkt. [1] at 6.

GROUND THREE: Denial of a fair trial -- Judge permitted testimony of deceased's mother, where prejudicial value [[which] was D.A. objective] ...

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