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Grant v. Lockett

August 18, 2010

TAIBU GRANT, DL-8437, PETITIONER,
v.
MELVIN LOCKETT, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert C. Mitchell United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Mitchell, M.J.

Taibu Grant, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, a certificate of appealability will be denied.

Grant is presently serving a life sentence imposed following his conviction, by a jury, of first degree murder at No. CC 199701537 in the criminal division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This sentence was imposed on October 22, 1997.*fn1

An appeal was taken to the Superior Court in which the issues presented were:

I. Whether the identification evidence was insufficient to establish Mr. Grant as the shooter beyond a reasonable doubt, where the sole identifying witness based his identification on the general similarity between the popular jacket worn by the shooter and that worn by Mr. Grant, where his testimony was unreliable, and where three eyewitnesses, including a prosecution witness, testified that Mr. Grant was not the shooter.

II. Whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to raise and preserve the issue that the verdict of first degree murder was so against the weight of the evidence as to shock one's conscience given the insufficient, unreliable, speculative and contradictory identification testimony.

III. Whether the trial court erred in permitting into evidence and then instructing the jury that Mr. Grant was not licensed to carry a firearm, where this evidence was unsupported in the record, had no relevance, and only caused unfair prejudice.

IV. Whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to call important exculpatory witnesses, and whether this issue must be remanded for an evidentiary hearing given the inadequate present state of the record.

V. Whether Mr. Grant is entitled to a new trial because of the prosecutor's failure to disclose critical criminal history pertaining to its sole identification witness, and whether this issue must be remanded given the inadequate state of the record.

VI. Whether the trial court erred in prohibiting defense counsel from impeaching Mr. Moore with his two crimen falsi convictions, where his testimony was essential to the verdict and remoteness did not outweigh the constitutional necessity of impeachment.

VII. Whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the prosecutors' improperly prejudicial closing argument, which vouched for the veracity of his key witness and which impermissibly infringed upon Mr. Grant's right to remain silent.

VIII. Whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to secure a jury instruction on the absence of motive, where the lack of motive was a vital issue and the charge would have been given.

IX. Whether Mr. Grant is entitled to relief based upon the cumulative prejudicial effect of trial court, prosecutorial and trial counsel errors.*fn2 On July 6, 2000, the Superior Court remanded the matter for the limited purpose of a determination of whether or not the weight of the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. In all other respects, the conviction and sentence were affirmed.*fn3

A petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was filed in which the issues presented were:

I. The Superior Court erred in refusing to remand the case for an evidentiary hearing and in ruling that the petitioner's claims were insufficient, where he was precluded from supplementing the record and perfecting his claims by this Court's very own rulings prohibiting reference to matters outside the record. Specifically, the Superior Court erred in failing to remand on the following issues:

A. Mr. Grant is entitled to a new trial because of the prosecutor's failure to disclose a critical criminal history pertaining to its sole identification witness which would have severely impeached his credibility.

B. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to call available exculpatory witnesses, both of whom would have provided critical testimony contradicting and impeaching that of the prosecution's only identification eyewitness.

II. The trial court erred in prohibiting defense counsel from impeaching Mr. Moore with his two crimen falsi convictions, where his testimony was essential to the verdict and where remoteness did not outweigh the constitutional necessity of impeachment.

III. The identification evidence was insufficient to establish Mr. Grant as the shooter beyond a reasonable doubt

IV. The trial court erred in permitting into evidence and then instructing the jury that Mr. Grant was not licensed to carry a firearm, where this evidence was unsupported in the record, had no relevance, and only caused unfair prejudice.

V. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the prosecutors' improperly prejudicial closing argument, which vouched for the veracity of his key witness and which impermissibly infringed upon Mr. Grant's right to remain silent.

VI. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to secure a jury instruction on the absence of motive, where the lack of motive was a vital issue and the charge would have been given.*fn4

On August 2, 2001, allowance of appeal was granted on issues I and IV only.*fn5 On December 31, 2002, the Supreme Court affirmed, ruling that claims of ineffective assistance should be raised in post-conviction proceedings; that the petitioner had failed to establish a Brady claim and that a concealed weapons instruction was appropriate.*fn6

The petitioner subsequently filed a petitioner for a ruling on his post-sentence motion. Following a hearing, relief was denied and an appeal taken to the Superior Court in which the issues presented were:

Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Mr. Grant's motion challenging the weight of the evidence, where the identification testimony of Mr Moore was so unreliable and ...


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