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Knight v. Mooney

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2017

JARRED BURTON KNIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
VINCENT F. MOONEY Warden SCI Coal Township; THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondents.

          OPINION

          Maureen P. Kelly Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         Jarred Burton Knight (“Petitioner”) was convicted of, inter alia, third degree murder in the death of his then girlfriend's 14 month old child by, apparently, slamming the child's head against a wall with such force as to result in a dent to both the wall and the underlying stud. As a result, Petitioner was sentenced to 20 to 40 years incarceration.

         Petitioner, proceeding by privately retained counsel, raises four Grounds for Relief in the instant Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (the “Petition”). ECF No. 1. Because none of the Grounds merits the grant of federal habeas relief, the Petition will be denied. Because jurists of reason would not find denial of the Petition debatable, a Certificate of Appealability will also be denied.

         I. FACTUAL HISTORY

         The Pennsylvania Superior Court summarized the factual background of this case as follows in its Opinion dated May 25, 2010:

On the morning of June 23, 2007, at 8:00 a .m., Jessica Davis, mother of the decedent, went to work and left her child in the sole care of Appellant, her boyfriend. That afternoon, Appellant ran to a neighbor's home seeking emergency medical help for the unresponsive child whom Appellant alleged had accidentally hit his head. The child was life-flighted to a hospital but later died as a result of blunt force trauma to his head.
Following a police investigation, Appellant was arrested and charged. The Commonwealth's case centered on an indentation in the drywall of the home's bathroom and the allegation that the child's fatal head injuries were caused when Appellant threw the child into that wall. A jury convicted Appellant of the child's murder, judgment of sentence was imposed on June 17, 2009. . . .

         Pa. Superior Court slip op., ECF No. 1-2 at 1 - 2.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. State Court

         After Petitioner was convicted, he filed a direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which affirmed the conviction. ECF No. 1-2 at 1 - 13. Petitioner filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied on September 10, 2010. ECF No. 9 at 2. Petitioner then filed a petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”), which the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County denied. ECF No. 1-4 at 1 - 15. Petitioner appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed. ECF No. 1-5 at 1 - 15. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied on June 24, 2014. ECF No. 9 at 2.

         B. Federal Court

         Petitioner filed the instant counseled Petition in this Court, raising the following four Grounds for Relief:

GROUND ONE: The Petitioner was denied his federal constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury when it was discovered after the trial that a juror, Amy McMillan, should have been excluded because of a prior relationship with the Petitioner's uncle that created a bias in that juror and prejudiced the Petitioner.

         ECF No. 1 at 5.

GROUND TWO: The Petitioner was denied his federal constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury when that same juror had lied during voir dire and should have been excluded from the jury.

Id. at 7.

GROUND THREE: The PCRA Court violated the Petitioner's 14th Amendment right to due process and (5th A) [sic] right to compulsory process by refusing counsel's motion to subpoena juror Amy McMillan to testify about relationship to Petitioner's uncle, her untruthful answers on jury questionnaire, and her visit to the Petitioner's uncle after the trial.

Id. at 8.

GROUND FOUR: PCRA counsel was ineffective for failing to subpoena juror Amy McMillan for PCRA hearing and deprived Petitioner of effective assistance of counsel and due process under the 14th Amendment to U.S. Constitution. Hence, Petitioner was denied compulsory process (5th Amendment) to prove juror's lies and bias against him.

Id. at 10.

         Respondents, through the District Attorney of Butler County, filed an Answer denying that Petitioner was entitled to any relief. ECF No. 9. Petitioner then filed a Traverse, ECF No. 22, and a Brief in Support of the Petition. ECF No. 23. All parties have consented to have the United States Magistrate Judge exercise plenary jurisdiction. ECF Nos. 10 and 11.

         III. AEDPA

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, ' 101 (1996) (the “AEDPA”) which amended the standards for reviewing state court judgments in federal habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was enacted on April 24, 1996. Because Petitioner's habeas Petition was filed after its effective date, the AEDPA is applicable to this case. Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).

         Where the state courts have reviewed a federal issue presented to them and disposed of the issue on the merits, and that issue is also raised in a federal habeas petition, the AEDPA provides the applicable deferential standards by which the federal habeas court is to review the state ...


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